Pierce Pepin Intern Wins $10,000 National Scholarship
The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) announced Will Tuchtenhagen, River Falls, has been selected as the winner of the top scholarship awarded by the Glenn English National Cooperative Leadership Foundation, earning the River Falls native $10,000.
“Will is a great representative for the youth and future leaders from Wisconsin,” said Pierce Pepin Cooperative Services President and CEO Nate Boettcher, who said the announcement felt like “a proud dad moment.”
Tuchtenhagen, 20, is on his second summer working as an intern at Pierce Pepin, where Boettcher says he takes full advantage of the opportunity to learn, engage, and contribute.
“Last year, Will helped with doing research for broadband. He also helped craft several presentations on policy from research he conducted. We had him involved in our key accounts program and even got him to record a podcast with another intern. In the last couple of months, he’s been helping with easements, helping to launch our broadband, and has been reviewing economic development opportunities. He’s helped work on our EV strategy and promotion as well. He also became the office fly swatter. Will steps up and helps out wherever he can,” Boettcher said, adding that Will is “modest to the core.”
Will’s hands-on experience in furthering broadband expansion in rural Wisconsin started when he was active in youth programs with the statewide association.
He served as a state representative with the 2017–2018 Wisconsin Electric Cooperative Association (WECA) Youth Board. He went on to be the NRECA Wisconsin State Representative in 2019, where he served as a junior chaperone in Washington, D.C. He participated on the youth education panel at the 2019 NRECA Annual Meeting, where he spoke about the importance of rural broadband.
Tuchtenhagen said he was “shocked” to learn he won the top prize, and in true modest fashion, thanked his support system for making it happen. “I would not be where I am today without all the wonderful people in my life,” he said. “I have to thank my parents for giving me a strong support system and always encouraging me to do my best and try new things. I would also like to especially thank Beth Knudson from NRECA, Tina Walden from WECA, as well as Charity Lubich and Nate Boettcher from Pierce Pepin for not just taking a chance on me, but also continuing to believe in me and be my cheerleaders in the background. And I have to thank my friend Ian Danielson at Luther College for doing all the filming for my application video and letting me borrow his computer for an entire day, so I could put it together. A huge thank you to everyone else who has supported me up to this point. There are too many names to list, but you know who you are.”
The Glenn English National Cooperative Leadership Foundation encourages educational advancement by awarding higher education scholarships to eligible students. The organization has awarded almost $100,000 in scholarships to NRECA’s Youth Tour alumni since the program’s inception in 2014.
In addition to Tuchtenhagen’s $10,000 scholarship, NRECA announced three winners of the $2,000 “Engineers of the Future” scholarship and four winners of the $1,000 “Youth Tour Alumni” scholarship. Tuchtenhagen is the only winner from Wisconsin.
Boettcher says the win is a great example of the value of youth programs and internships for both the student and the cooperative.
“My hope is that other kids from our state recognize the opportunity to participate in YLC and to learn about our electric cooperatives,” he said. “There is a wonderful opportunity for our youth to help lead our cooperatives in the future. Young men and women like Will coming out of college are smart, determined, innovative, and have a desire to make a difference. My hope is that we can keep these talented leaders like Will in our industry.”
Tuchtenhagen attends Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, working on a double major in political science and international studies and a minor in business. He expects to graduate in 2023 and says this scholarship will open up more opportunities for him in college and beyond, potentially in the cooperative world, where Boettcher says he would be an asset: “He is such a great young man and very deserving—we are very excited and proud of him.”—Julie Lund