Who will grab the torch?
Wisconsin’s cooperative movement lost a great friend and advocate in January when Brian Kulas passed away. Kulas’s dedicated service on the boards of the Taylor Electric Cooperative, Dairyland Power Cooperative and Federated Youth Foundation will long be remembered, but his most lasting co-op legacy will be the “Co-ops in Our Schools” curriculum he developed to spread the co-op message to a new generation of cooperators.
An educator at heart, Kulas believed that young students would benefit from learning about cooperatives and he did something about it. He used his contacts as a retired school administrator to work with the Medford School District to develop the co-op curriculum and his contacts with local cooperatives to rally financial support for the program.
His efforts resulted in a two-day “Co-ops in Our Schools” program that was presented to Medford fifth graders on days when their regular teacher was gone. Kulas helped train substitute teachers to present the curriculum and local cooperatives donated money to help cover the cost of the substitute teacher, saving the school district money.
The curriculum is designed to be fun for students as they learn about cooperative history and principles, and how co-ops operate and benefit their communities. Writing and producing 30-second radio ads on why people should join a co-op is a highlight for the kids.
Kulas developed the curriculum with an eye toward replicating the program throughout the state and even the nation. The program has indeed received national recognition, earning Taylor
Electric Cooperative a national Community Service Award from the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) in 2012.
Tony Wagner, who succeeded Kulas as chairman of the Federated Youth Foundation, says it’s important to keep the program alive and encourage more cooperatives to push for cooperative education in their schools. The Federated Youth Foundation has also contributed funds from the Cooperative Education and Training Fund to support the program.
“Brian has laid the groundwork, developing the ‘Co-ops in Our Schools’ curriculum and providing a blueprint as to how we can promote this program in a way that benefits students, school districts and cooperatives,” Wagner said. “Sharing this curriculum with more students would be a wonderful way to honor Brian and advance his vision for cooperative education.”
While no one can replace Brian Kulas, those who share his passion for cooperatives and education can pick up the torch and help carry on where Brian left off. The complete “Co-ops in Our Schools” curriculum is available on Taylor Electric Cooperative’s website http://taylorelectric.org/cooperatives-in-our-school-program/. Questions can be directed to Federated Youth Foundation Vice President Herman Seebandt by calling 715-743-4184 or
or to Adams-Columbia Electric Cooperative Communications Coordinator Keith Wohlfert at 608-339-5439 or