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Southern Hospitality
Sister City students from Japan pay visit
chaperonesWEB
McMinnvilles Sister City chairperson, Leigh Ann Stewart, center, worked diligently to make sure chaperones Kaori Oshima and Yui Meyer enjoyed the American experience as much as the youngsters.

Students from Mikawa, Japan and McMinnville are creating bonds, celebrating and appreciating their differences, and making life-changing memories. They are part of the Sister Cities student exchange program with the cities alternating hosting and visiting responsibilities.
Sister Cities International was created by President Dwight Eisenhower in 1956 at the conference on citizen diplomacy. He reasoned people of different cultures could celebrate and appreciate their differences and build partnerships. The program has been endorsed by every president since.
The McMinnville/Mikawa sistership started in 1993 under the administration of Mayor Norman Rone, making this our 22nd student exchange. Ten local students are chosen to participate in the program, with Warren County's delegation going to Japan in 2017. Applications will be distributed in April to current 7th, 8th and 9th graders to start the process of acceptance. 
Leigh Ann Stewart is the local Sister City chair, and is joined by a group of dedicated board members. Together they make all the arrangements for the guests while they are in the United States. Their visit started out in Washington, D.C., then arrived in Nashville to shop and visit the Parthenon before traveling to Warren County.
While here, Stewart made sure every detail was taken care of for the guests. Southern hospitality is evident in the food choices and the variety of activities offered to them. The group toured the Yorozu plant, kayaked down the river, spent the day viewing Chattanooga sites and enjoyed a banquet at the Bridgestone Learning Center while also spending time with their host families. The families welcomed the student into their home and let them experience American life first hand, while unique activities were planned for the two chaperones.
“Two of my girls have hosted and visited with the same family,” said Stewart. “I was able to go last year and visited with them, their parents and grandparents. This program has been a life-changing experience for our family.”
She says the experience has opened their eyes to a global experience, with daughter Chelsea planning to major in international studies and international relations, all as a result of the program.
“I absolutely include my family in the numerous lives touched by this program over the years,” said Stewart. “I am confident this year’s families will have a similar experience and will marvel at how they will gain a new daughter or son and be called Mom or Dad by a child whose home is thousands of miles away.”
Communicating with the students can be an enlightening experience, with children encouraged to learn as many Japanese words and phrases as possible. Since their students take English in school, their communication skills exceed ours.
With the communication and culture differences set aside, at the end of the day, they are all just children, having fun playing and just doing what kids do.