What is a “Sister City”? How do exchanges work?
1) Fresno Sister Cities, Inc. is a 501(C)3 non-profit organization registered in California. It is a local chapter in good standing with Sister Cities International in Washington, D.C. which was founded in 1956 by President Dwight Eisenhower and supported by each U.S. President since that time. The Fresno chapter was founded in 1958 by Mayor Arthur Selland. His wife, Mabel put together a strong board of philanthropic directors to facilitate the exchanges and raised private and public monies to ensure its success. This program is taken very seriously by governments abroad. Nurturing a relationship with their American partners helps to build a foundation of trust for business and cultural understanding.
The U.S. State Department underwrites and supports SCI and the “Citizen Diplomat Program” and uses the organization as a recruiting tool for bright young minds. They award one-year scholarships to fifty deserving young people across America every year who have gone through a local chapter’s high school exchange program and excelled in immersing themselves in another language and culture. These U.S. State Department scholarships are available to graduating high school seniors through their language teachers.
Fresno Sister Cities won national recognition and an award from Sister Cities International for its successful Münster Exchange Program, which started in 1998 under Mayor Ted Wills. Connor Mayes, of Edison High School, won a U.S. State Department one-year scholarship to Germany in 2012.
2) An exchange starts off between a citizen group who will support and encourage a partnership. There must be similarities between the two cities. They petition the mayor of the city to form an official city partnership with the mayor of the target city. The mayor writes a letter expressing interest and includes a folder with letters of support from high profile business people and organizations (i.e. Fresno Philharmonic, Alliance Française de Fresno, CSU Fresno, Rotary Club, etc. Usually, the mayor of the proposed city has been informally asked about such a partnership before formal negotiations are started.
3) The high school student exchange is a “family-to-family” free exchange, in that no fees are paid to Fresno Sister Cities for a student’s inclusion in the program. Volunteers take no money for their work. This is truly an “all-volunteer” grassroots program to allow as many students to participate as possible. Fresno Sister Cities’ volunteers believe that this program shapes young lives, by opening minds to experiencing world travel, language immersion and cultural enrichment in the safe environment of hosted exchanges.
Fresno Sister Cities, Inc
501 (C)3 All-Volunteer California Non-Profit
Tax I.D. 27-0984869
Member of Sister Cities International, Inc