The prestigious Youth Tour 2013 campaign ended recently when four local students returned from Washington, D.C., all smiles and a little tired.

Rachel Gold of Niceville High School, Devin Herrington of Freeport High, Brandon Engler of Baker and Christopher Hammonds of Paxton described the June 15-20 trip as life-shaping. They will be seniors when the 2013-14 school year begins.

In Washington, Florida’s co-op contingent mingled with students from 639 of America’s other cooperatives. The high schoolers, some 1,600 of them, visited museums and monuments, took a Potomac River boat tour, saw the play “Anything Goes” at the Kennedy performing arts center and met their representatives in Congress.

Herrington enjoyed the Newseum, a museum exhibiting the role of the press in America. She fit nicely into the informal role of CHELCO’s ambassador of goodwill, easily making new friends and helping create a memorable experience for her fellow Okaloosa and Walton county students.

Engler spoke for the other three when he described the Washington National Cathedral as the most breathtaking site on the tour.

“It was awesome,” he said. “Its size, the architecture. It was beautiful.”

CHELCO has sponsored local high schoolers in the national Youth Tour program since 1983. It’s gearing up for the 2014 campaign. Visit for information about Youth Tour.