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Five years after meeting on the Washington D.C. Youth Tour, Ethan Ryberg and Vanessa Peterson were married. These two youth tour participants generously shared their story of meeting on the tour and the path their lives have taken until getting married this past July.

Group of students from 2012 NRECA Washington D.C. Youth Tour posing for a fun photo while touring. Ethan is kneeling and Vanessa is the girl on the right.

Ethan Ryberg was a student at BOLD High School. In 2012, he was chosen to represent McLeod Co-op Power on the Washington D.C. Youth Tour, sponsored by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. His parents, Brian and Sandy Ryberg of rural Buffalo Lake, are members of McLeod Co-op Power.

Vanessa Peterson was from Rosholt, SD. It is a small town of around 550 people. She also grew up on a farm, with her parents, Mike and Deb Peterson, and her siblings. In 2012 she was the Washington D.C. Youth Tour representative for Traverse Electric Cooperative, headquartered in Wheaton, Minnesota but also providing electric service to a portion of northeastern South Dakota.

They flew to Washington D.C. with a group of youth reps from other Minnesota electric cooperatives. Once in D.C. they met up with youth representatives from 42 other states.

Ethan recalled,” We flew out together from Minneapolis. We both remember each other from the meet and greet. Vanessa was standing in a group of people and I walked up behind her and said she was the perfect height because I could still see everybody!”

Ethan, Vanessa, and rest of the Minnesota youth delegation spent almost a week touring Washington D.C. monuments, the Smithsonian Institute, the Newseum, Arlington National Cemetery, Mt. Vernon, the Vietnam Memorial, the 9/11 Memorial, and the WWII Memorial. They visited with congressional legislators and learned how the government process works.

Ethan and Vanessa recalled the youth tour as being a great way to meet other kids who are driven, ambitious, and hard working. They shared,” The tours and monuments we saw offered great perspective on history and the growth of our country.” They added,” Being part of a such a positive experience was a great kick-off to our senior years and motivation that we can do anything we set our minds to.”

“We would definitely recommend the tour to others,” they said. “It was an amazing experience that will never be forgotten! There are absolutely no negatives either, as it was free!”

Ethan added, “When my sister McKaia was selected to attend (in 2017), I was very excited that she would be able to have the same experience that we had. I told her to be herself and be as outgoing as possible (not hard for her at all) and make some memories!” He shared that she did not meet any special guys on the tour but she did meet some great people.

Ethan and Vanessa kept in touch with some friends the summer after the youth tour but after that they didn’t keep in contact as much. “We still are friends with a few of our closer youth tour friends on Facebook and it is nice to keep tabs on how they are doing,” said Ethan and Vanessa. “One of our friends from the youth tour went to college in the Fargo/Moorhead area with us, Concordia College, and we saw her a few times around Fargo and it was fun to catch up!” they added.

The same ’52 Chevy Deluxe, owned by Vanessa’s dad, that transported the couple to Vanessa’s senior prom, also transported the newlyweds to their wedding reception.

After the June 2012 Washington Youth Tour, Ethan and Vanessa started dating that fall. “She lived about 3 hours away from me so we saw each other once or twice a month that first year, doing our best to pull off a long-distance relationship, said Ethan.

They explained, ”Our long-distance relationship lasted from the summer of 2012 to fall of 2013 when we started at North Dakota State University (NDSU). We both lived in the “pharmacy community” dorms freshman year and there was a flight of stairs separating our dorm rooms. We proceeded to make the same friends and meet a great network of pharmacy people, a few of which are in the same class as us and will graduate with us in 2019.”

Ethan added, ”When we met in D.C. we had both expressed that we wanted to go to NDSU for pharmacy. Sure enough, 5 years later, we are in our P3 year (3rd year of pharmacy program), set to graduate in the spring of 2019 with Doctorate of Pharmacy Degrees from NDSU.” Both Ethan and Vanessa currently work part-time jobs in Fargo while attending school.

Ethan and Vanessa are the only married couple in their pharmacy class of around 80 students. They shared, “Once we graduate, we both are interested in working in rural Minnesota, preferably northern Minnesota because we love the lakes, trees, and golf courses. “

“We both chose a career in pharmacy because we wanted to go into health care and have a positive impact in the world and our communities,” said Ethan.

Mr. & Mrs. Ethan Ryberg on their wedding day.

Vanessa shared, “I had experiences with the health care system when one of my younger sisters had many brain surgeries and medical ups and downs throughout her childhood. I witnessed first-hand how health care practitioners who truly care can make such a difference in people’s lives. I wanted to be able to help others the same way those great medical professionals helped my sister.” She added, “I have always loved people, and the opportunity I saw to better my community through practicing community pharmacy was too great to not pursue.”

Ethan and Vanessa got engaged on August 14th, 2016 and got married July 1st, 2017. Their wedding was large, with 350 people in attendance. The car that brought them to the reception from the church was the same car that they took to Vanessa’s Prom their senior year –  a ’52 Chevy Deluxe.

“None of the D.C group was in attendance at the wedding, but multiple people from our Washington D.C. tour messaged us and said how cool it was and ‘congratulations’ ” said Ethan and Vanessa.

Vanessa and Ethan closed by saying,” We are extremely grateful for the opportunity to be a part of the Washington D.C. Tour and both loved the experience. Meeting each other on the tour was an added benefit.”

Article by Sue Pawelk, courtesy of McLeod Co-op Power, Glencoe MN.