The Jinan-Sacramento Sister Cities Corporation (JSSCC) has long been focusing on its youth program since its founding in 1984. The goal of our ‘Youth Ambassador” Program is to promote exchanges and understanding between American and Chinese students and help participating students from Jinan and Sacramento expand their world view and forge friendship, peace and understanding through personal interaction and learning each other’s culture and history.
The Youth Ambassador Program was established in 2006 by current JSSCC President Grace Liu to offer local Sacramento students a chance to experience Chinese culture first-hand, as well as giving them the opportunity to expand their global perspectives and build lasting international friendships. Participants in the Youth Ambassador Program have the rare opportunity to witness daily Chinese life through a combination of home-stays with gracious Chinese host families, educational sight-seeing, and interactions with their Chinese peers. Over the last eight years, over 110 students from middle schools and high schools in the Greater Sacramento areas have participated in the Youth Ambassador Program, experiencing the wonders of ancient Chinese culture alongside the breath-taking sights of a very modern and dynamic 21st Century China.
Our Youth Program has provided an opportunity for Sacramento students and teachers to learn the Chinese culture, interact with Chinese students and explore the wonders of China. Every summer since 2006, JSSCC has arranged a 10-day long tour throughout China, catering to select Sacramento area middle school and high school students. The trip focuses on building cultural bridges between Sacramento and Jinan. The trip takes students to Beijing, the Great Wall, and Qufu – the birthplace of Confucius, as well as Jinan, capital of Shandong Province. Past participants describe it as an eye-opening experience and a life-changing trip. “After watching students half my age perform, it made me realize that I have not been using my full potential as a person,” says Mayra Fabela, Grant High School student and participant of trip 2008. Quite a few of past participants of our program went on to become young leaders in their schools and in the community.
Since summer 2010, we expanded our Youth Ambassador Program to benefit Jinan students as well. Since then, the program has sponsored 40 music students from the Jinan Children’s Palace to attend the Chamber Music Workshop by the Sacramento Youth Symphony (SYS) and play concerts with SYS. JSSCC pays for the students’ tuition and provide free stay (through volunteer host families) to Jinan students and their teacher(s) during their 10 days of stay in Sacramento. In the past two years, we also organized two groups of eight Jinan peace messengers to visit Sacramento and spread the message of peace. These peace messengers are winning students selected from over 1,000 participants (from middle schools and high schools in Jinan) of the ‘Inspirational Messages of Peace Contest’.
We also donated Chinese books to the Mandarin Immersion program at the William Land Elementary School, a public school in the Sacramento City Unified School District. We are also trying to help the after-school program to help students do their homework in Mandarin and help parents learn Mandarin.
The following outlines the details of our ‘Youth Ambassador’ program:
1) Organize subsidized summer trips for Sacramento and Jinan students, as well as teachers from both cities, to visit or study in each other’s cities and stay with local host families that we help find.
2) Provide two ‘Youth Ambassador’ scholarships, one full scholarship – the C.J. Deeble Youth Ambassador Scholarship, and one $1000 Margaret and John Wong Youth Ambassador Scholarship to grant funds to worthy students; who represent Sacramento in a JSSCC-sponsored goodwill trip to Jinan and promote friendship. So far six students have been awarded the scholarships.
3) Award Youth Ambassador Teacher Stipend in the amount of $1000.00 each or a free international air ticket, whichever is higher. The stipend was merit and need based. The selection process involves a personal essay as to why they feel qualified; what qualities and/or expertise they can bring to this position, a personal interview with the Scholarship Committee members, and a scoring method as to whether a candidate would qualify for the stipend. Every year since 2006, at least one teacher has received the stipend.
4) Extend the benefit of the program to Jinan students. Sponsor Jinan students to visit and study in Sacramento; assist academic exchanges for Jinan students to study in colleges and universities in the Greater Sacramento Area.
5) Introduce sister schools between local schools and schools in Jinan in order to support initiatives of Chinese Language or Immersion programs at the K-12 level.
6) Support and sponsor video conferencing between Sacramento students and Jinan students in classroom setting or at major events.
7) Support/assist efforts in keeping Mandarin as an option for foreign languages in the Hiram Johnson High School, Kennedy High School, Churchill Middle School and Mira Loma High School. Sponsor and support efforts in expanding Mandarin as a foreign language option in other high schools and middle schools for the purpose of promoting the Chinese culture and fostering understanding of China and the Chinese people.
8) Support/Initiate courses or programs promoting Chinese culture and cultural exchanges in educational institutes of all levels in the Greater Sacramento area.
9) Initiate a Youth Leadership seminar for select students from both Sacramento and Jinan to participate in summer 2014.
The program benefits dozens of schools in the Greater Sacramento region including those mentioned above. Our other community partners include the Sacramento Youth Symphony, the International World Peace Rose Gardens, the Sacramento Culture Foundation, KIDS FOR PEACE and Grownups too, the City of Sacramento, and corporate sponsors such as the Wells Fargo Bank, etc.