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The Longmont City Council Chamber was full of excited young teens and several very happy looking adults as they all gathered for the 2020 Annual Meeting of the Longmont Sister Cities Association, which is celebrating its thirtieth anniversary this year.
LSCA’s President, Janice Rebhan, welcomed everyone and called the (informal) meeting to order. She made it clear that that the main purpose of the evening was to introduce and celebrate the young “ambassadors” who participate in the program to forge links between young people across the country and across the globe.
Sue Bolton, who has been a long-time participant in LSCA, often as a chaperone, escorting the young people on their Twin City adventures, gave a short history of the program, both nationally and in Longmont. Chino City, Japan, was the first town to be designated a Sister City for Longmont in 1991 and the first Longmont student ambassadors visited the following year. Like Longmont, Chino is in the center of the country, and in a highland area described as “the roof of Japan”. Another high-country city was designated Longmont’s second Sister City in 1997. Cuidad Guzman is in the western Mexico state of Jalisco, has a population similar in size to Longmont’s, and lies about 100 miles south west of the state capital of Guadalajara.
Sue then shared the most recent Sister City news, describing the visit last year of Arapaho students from the Wind River Reservation in central Wyoming. They joined Longmont students for three days of cultural exchange in June. The students created art, studied storytelling, enjoyed meals together and made friends. This year will mark the first year of Longmont ambassador students spending time on the Wind River reservation as an official part of the Longmont Sister City program.
Sam Seyfi, a past president of LSCA, continued with the presentation of new board members, while David Merrill, Band Director at Longmont High, shared his experiences of escorting 32 band members to Chino as part of the LSCA program.
High point of the evening was the introduction of past, current and future student participants. Ambassadors must be in 8th to 11th grades in Longmont schools, both public and private, and home schoolers are eligible as well. All must stay in the St Vrain area for the year following their Sister City visit.
The new and future ambassadors were a little reticent when introducing themselves and speaking of their hopes and aspirations, but all were looking forward to their forthcoming trips. Because of the 2020 Olympics in Japan, there will not be a Chino visit this year, but the students were equally enthusiastic to be part of the Cuidad Guzman or Arapaho Nation exchanges.
Past ambassadors were only too happy to share their experiences while on Sister Cities visits. All spoke of the kindness of their host families and the delight in experiencing a different culture. The theme of their comments could be summed up as “milk the cow” – one young girl spoke of her regret in not doing just that while on a farm during her exchange visit. And now she thinks back and understands that taking advantage of every opportunity is the point of life in general and youth in particular. One young man described being presented in Chino with a dish of unknown provenance that included an octopus tentacle – he was proud of having “milked the cow” and enjoyed it immensely.
A more mature ambassador, Jennifer Diaz Leon, now works for the Children, Youth & Families Division of the City of Longmont, has most recently participated in the Wind River student exchange as a chaperone, shared her thoughts, feelings and experiences of LCSA. The program has allowed her to expand her horizons and open her mind and soul to so many new experiences. She particularly appreciated being involved in the Wind River visit, realizing that the Arapaho originally roamed the St. Vrain area, so were really “coming home”.
Janice wrapped up the proceedings by reminding everyone to continue to check the Longmont Sister Cities website in the coming weeks to learn more about other anniversary events and activities. To find out more about LSCA and their programs and events, go to their website at www.longmontsistercities.com/