By Courtney Michelle
“If we are going to take advantage of the assumption that all people want peace, then the problem is for people to get together… to work out not one method but thousands of methods by which people can gradually learn a little bit more of each other,” said President Dwight D. Eisenhower at the People-to-People Conference on Sept. 11, 1956.
That was when Eisenhower first shared his idea to develop a program that cultivates relationships between cities across the globe – and, namely, between the people who make up those cities.
66 years ago, this “people-to-people” concept came to life through the development of Sister Cities International; Eisenhower recognized that if we didn’t bridge the gap between different cultures through awareness, understanding and friendship, we would only find ourselves amidst more conflict.
In 1990, local businesses and government organizations bridged that same gap by establishing Longmont’s first Sister City with Chino, Japan. In 1995, the Longmont Sister Cities Association (LSCA) was founded to manage this relationship while coordinating events and travel. In 1997, Ciudad Guzman, Mexico, became Longmont’s second Sister City. And in September 2021, the LSCA partnered with their third Sister City, the Northern Arapaho of the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming.
Over the years, the LSCA has continued to strengthen their relationship with both the local Longmont community and their sister communities by building on their five foundational principles: promoting educational and leadership opportunities; serving as an information resource; acting as a communication conduit to the international community; sponsoring exchanges and homestays; and furthering municipal cooperation.
Those foundational principles are made possible through the LSCA’s annual student exchange and chaperone programs, board of volunteers, involvement in the local community and the transformative, one-of-a-kind experience that they offer to all of those who participate.
Student Exchange Program
Since its inception, the Longmont Sister Cities Association has sponsored an annual student exchange. This program brings students from Japan, Mexico, and Wyoming to Longmont for a 10-day visit. In turn, students from Longmont participate in a similar 10-day visit to either Japan, Mexico or the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming.
Students currently enrolled in 8th – 11th grade in SVVSD area are encouraged to apply. Following interviews, selected students are granted the opportunity to join the Student Exchange Program. Upon joining the program, these students are then expected to participate in team-building and fundraising activities to help them earn money for their experience.
Adults living in the Longmont area also have an opportunity to participate in the Sister Cities Exchange Program as chaperones. Following a series of interviews and background checks, chaperones are selected to oversee the student exchange, assist with fundraising activities and accompany the students on their trip.
Volunteer-Based Board of Directors
A Board of Directors governs the Longmont Sister Cities Association. The Board is comprised of approximately 15 members who volunteer their time to the organization.
Key Role in the Longmont Community
The LSCA maintains partnerships with the city museum and civic organizations to promote cultural awareness. LSCA participates in various events in the Longmont area to foster awareness and involvement in the community and to bring chaperones, students and civic leaders together. Their next event is to commemorate Dia de Los Muertos on Saturday, Oct. 8.
A Life-Changing Experience
“When I found out about Longmont’s program for youth exchanges, I wanted to get involved so I could help youth experience different cultures, languages and peoples,” said Courtney Michelle, the current Vice President of the Longmont Sister Cities Association.
When faced with the opportunity to study as an exchange student in Norway back in 1990, Courtney herself experienced a change in the trajectory of her life – an experience that sparked her love for travel and spurred her passion for providing other young people with the same opportunities.
Courtney applied and was selected as a chaperone to Mexico in 2007. She took students to Mexico again in 2011, and then joined the LSCA as a board member. In 2018, Courtney was elected to join the executive board as Vice President.
“It is rewarding to play a role in connecting people in a way that cultivates understanding and life-long friendships!” said Courtney.
If you would like to join the LSCA for a life-changing experience as a chaperone or student, visit their website at www.longmontsistercities.com. The deadline for chaperones is Oct. 15; the deadline for student applicants is Oct. 31.