The County of Santa Clara Sister County Commissions launched an exciting project in 2014 to provide youth scholarships for local students to attend Sister Cities International 2014 Annual Youth Leadership Summit in San Jose. The commissions sent nine students to the conference so they could join other youth from around the world to learn about important global challenges and the ways in which different national experiences drive international cooperation on critical issues.
Over 100 high school students from the United States, Germany, Japan, China, and South Korea participated in the Youth Leadership Summit. The summit engaged youth in the Sister Cities International network while exposing them to important international challenges focused on the theme, Water as a Shared Commodity. The educational G20 simulation provided students with a platform to learn about diplomacy, international relations, critical thinking, and teamwork. Throughout the weekend, students participated in various activities in addition to their classroom sessions.
Testimonials from scholarship recipients:
I want to express my gratitude for the opportunity to come to this summit with a very substantial scholarship. I had a lot of fun, but mostly it was interesting to talk about water problems throughout the world. I know here in the US many people take water for granted. I know I do sometimes. It's easy to forget that in some nations it can take a voyage of 5 or more miles just to take home a couple gallons of water that may not even be sanitary. It really led me to think more deeply about water scarcity and crisis the world is facing today and will face in the years to come. It was eye-opening and exciting to peer into the future. Also it was refreshing to be surrounded by so many peers that had the same interests as me and the same drive. I greatly appreciate the youth summit that was organized and I hope to come again.
* * *
I would like to thank you again for the scholarship you awarded me to attend the summit this summer. It was a fantastic experience, and one I won't forget anytime soon. The speakers we listened to were also very engaging. I especially enjoyed hearing from the panel of representatives from Australia, Japan, and the Bay Area about the ways that they are conserving and controlling water in their areas. It was also interesting to hear about the awards given to exceptional sister cities programs throughout the world and what those programs have done to further interactions between cities and to improve their relationships. It was very enjoyable to work together with my peers to develop solutions to water-related issues throughout the world. In short, the summit was an extremely enjoyable event for me. It helped change the way I see the lives of people around the world and motivates me to want to make a difference in the lives of less fortunate people. Throughout the course of a single weekend, I made a few great new friends and helped develop solutions to some of the world's most pressing issues. I truly appreciate all the work you and your staff did to bring me and the other scholarship recipients this wonderful opportunity-- your scholarship was a great help for me to be able to attend such an amazing event.
* * *
As a member of the Sister Cities club at Christopher high school I participate in interacting with students from cities in different countries occasionally, but I didn't really know what it meant to be a part of Sister Cities until I participated in the Youth Summit. When I applied for the scholarship from the County of Santa Clara and was selected I was so excited to get the chance to not only represent another county, but to also meet other people and work together to find solutions just like the real sister cities. Had I not been given the scholarship I wouldn't have even known about the conference and I most likely wouldn't have gone on my own; however, when I received the scholarship I knew I had to push myself to get out there and I'm thankful I was given the opportunity.
On the first day I was able to meet several new friends and watch an enlightening video on the topic of water that we would be discussing. The following day I walked into the San Jose City Hall and saw hundreds of Sister Cities members and it made me very happy to know how many people were devoted to working with one another. As the other students and I walked carrying the flags of several cities I was proud to hear the speeches and to see how unified we all were. At the end of the summit when we all presented our solutions to the issues of water it was really special because I felt that our ideas were really being heard. The closing ceremony in which organizations who have helped out their communities were recognized left me with the lasting impression of how great it is to support one's own community and to reach out to others to help each other thrive. Thank you so much for the wonderful opportunity,
* * *
Thank you so much for allowing me to go to the Sister City Youth Summit this summer. I met so many amazing people and got so many ideas for how I can improve my community. We focused on water issues internationally and took part in classroom discussions, listened to speakers, and eventually presented our findings to members of the summit. We saw how precious water is and we must work to limit our water use because it may not always be this plentiful. I am now trying to initiate some practices to save and conserve water at my school. I never would have been able to go to the summit without your generosity and I thank you so much. It has really changed the way I look at the world and has been an experience that has definitely changed my life and my outlook.