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Brynn Oppegaard selected to attend Youth Tour

Brynn OppegaardBurke-Divide Electric Cooperative has selected Brynn Oppegaard to represent the cooperative on the National Rural Electric Cooperative Youth Tour to Washington, D.C.

Brynn is a junior at Divide County High School and is the daughter of Heather and Mark Oppegaard of Crosby.  At school, Brynn participates in band, choir, Family Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA), Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA), Science Olympiad, Academic Olympics, and National Honor Society.

Outside of school, Brynn enjoys playing the piano and ukulele, reading, working at the St. Luke’s Care Center, being a student representative for the Meadowlark Arts Council, and going to youth group.

Burke-Divide Electric Cooperative is proud to have Brynn representing the cooperative on this year’s Youth Tour!

As part of the selection process, Brynn was asked to write an essay on the following topic:  What moment in American history do you wish you had been a part of and what would you have contributed?

Here is Brynn’s essay:

If I could contribute to any part of United States history, I would contribute to the underground railroad during the mid-nineteenth century. White abolitionists and free African Americans formed loose networks of safe houses and passages to help escaped slaves get north to safety. This was an important part of American history because it changed the lives of many slaves and their descendants.

The historical faces of the underground railroad include heroes such as Thomas Garret, who was a good friend of Harriet Tubman. He was a “stationmaster” of the underground railroad, providing food, shelter, and even money to the fugitives who passed through his home in Delaware. Garret ran into trouble with the law and was sent to court over violation of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. In court, he claimed that he was not guilty, and he asked the courtroom if they knew of any slaves he could help.

If I lived in that era, I would be a so called “stationmaster.” These people were the heart of the operation, opening up their homes or barns to run-away slaves. They not only provided the fugitives with shelter, food, and supplies, but also with information about who they could trust and about other stops along the journey. I would open up my home to anyone who needed help.

Another way I could have contributed is by finding a secretive way to transport runaway slaves. It would have been risky at that time because there were bounty hunters searching for escaped slaves, but it would be faster and probably safer than the fugitives traveling by foot. Some abolitionists hid slaves in their wagons and carts under stuff that kept them concealed from the outside.

Another option I would have considered if I lived in that time, is being a “conductor” of the underground railroad. A “conductor” was someone who led runaway slaves along the journey. The most well-known “conductor” was Harriet Tubman, who claimed she, “never lost a passenger.” Many of the people who led the slaves rarely went very far past the Mason Dixon line to retrieve slaves because of how risky it was. I would have tried to rescue slaves from the states farther in the south, who often had it much worse. One creative way I could have utilized to transport fugitives is by pretending to be a slave owner and traveling in plain sight with them, such as by train. Some abolitionists did succeed in using methods very similar.

The reason I wish I had been a part of the underground railroad is because I firmly believe in the natural rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness stated in our Declaration of Independence. These God-given rights were not given to most slaves and it will be a part of United States history forever. I know this country learned that slavery was wrong, and I hope that part of history is never repeated.

**NOTE:  DUE to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 Youth Tour has been canceled.  North Dakota electric cooperatives are working on alternative ideas for an event for this year's students.

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