Council Commends Sister City Participants
Students Share Their Experiences
With the budget done and other big issues winding down for the summer, the City Council took some time at its Monday night meeting to honor locals who had given their time and energy to Culver City.
Several students in the Culver City Sister City Youth Ambassador program received citations for their work this past year, representing Culver City on trips to the sister cities Kaizuka, Japan and Uruapan, Mexico (the two other sister cities are Lethbridge, Canada and Iksan City, South Korea).
“We bring a whole different view to the city,” said Culver City Sister Cities Committee president Marla Wolkowitz.
The program, founded by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, and celebrating its 50th anniversary in Culver City, is a “nonprofit citizen diplomacy network that creates and strengthens partnerships between U.S. and international communities…,” sending students to live with host families in the various sister cities in a cultural exchange that educates and communicates.
This year’s most recent exchange involved a group of middle school students who journeyed to Kaizuka. Their co-chaperones were Allison Burns, a teacher, and Culver City School Board president Karlo Silbiger.
“I’ve been a supporter of the Culver City Sister Cities Committee for a long time—but I finally got to go on a trip,” said Silbiger. “But now my resolve is heightened. What an incredible opportunity to shrink the world a little bit.”
Burns, who was teaching at a private school in Japan when she volunteered, said that “everyone had a great time despite the heat,” and that she hoped students would keep in touch with their host families.
Students, as they received their citations from the Council members, spoke of what they would remember best about visiting Japan.
Shelley: “Visiting all the middle schools---I got to interact with students my own age and learn about their culture.”
Michael: “Being able to spend time with a ‘brother.’ I grew up with four sisters. It was nice to be around a brother [in the host family] for a change.”
Sidney: “I learned the history of the Edo period, a long time ago-and I had fun!”
Other students mentioned memories such as participating in the tea ceremony, trying new foods, eating with chopsticks, and going to new places.
Council member Mehaul O’Leary had a question: “What is a ‘takoyaki’ party?”
Michelle, one of the students, replied that “tako” is octopus and “takoyaki” is a snack made from octopus, which the students prepared and feasted on.
After the Kaizuka delegation bowed and thanked the Council in Japanese, the Council heard from and gave citations to, a group of Youth Ambassadors from the Uruapan, Mexico excursion.
The Uruapan Ambassadors were Olivia Finnegan, Heather Reitzfeld, Marlie Goldschein, and Elizabeth (Lizzie) Ferreira.
“I took to heart the idea of changing the world, one friendship at a time,” said Marlie. “I made friends with many teenagers from Uruapan.”
Heather spoke of the group visiting orphanages. “Just us alone made such a big impact on their day—they were so grateful.”
Lizzie noted that the trip was not just to have fun. All delegates to the Sister Cities excursions have a project to work on and in this case, the group was focused on a project to help alleviate poverty.
Wolkowitz concluded the presentation by asking the Council to consider a permanent installation somewhere in the City, showing the history and achievements of the Sister Cities programs.
A second presentation involved a declaration of August 2012 as Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) Awareness Month. SMA is a degenerative disease that affects the muscles and is carried genetically.
The father of a boy named Jojo, who was wheeled up to meet the Council, told them he was grateful for help from city departments, especially the Culver City Fire Department. The declaration of the month as SMA Awareness Month would allow for “rais[ing] awareness of the disease so that when you see a person in a wheelchair, you know that [the disease] is not something you can catch from a hug or a handshake—and that these are really cool people. I’m the proudest father in the world.”
Last but not least, the Council honored Ronnie Jaye, who is retiring from her longtime position on the Culver City Cultural Affairs Commission.
Jaye, who served two terms on the Commission, served twice as chair, and also served on the board of the Cultural Affairs Foundation (which she helped to fund), thanked the many people who helped her over the years, in local government, on the Commission,, and elsewhere.
Jaye’s citation listed her many contributions to culture in Culver City and cited her “musical knowledge, sense of humor, and ability to burst into a song during meetings.”
“Including City Council meetings,” noted Meghan Sahli-Wells as she read the citation.
And Jaye won’t be retiring from involvement in Culver City cultural events. She promised that at next week’s meeting, she will do her annual bursting-into-song announcement of “Fiesta La Ballona.”