The 2015 Houston-Chiba Sister City Youth Ambassador Exchange Program (Program) offered four (4) middle school students from Chiba City the opportunity to contribute to an enduring relationship between the U.S. and Japan by serving as goodwill ambassadors to Houston from August 16-29, 2015.
While in Houston, the Chiba Youth Ambassadors visited NASA, Battleship Texas, San Jacinto Monument, Houston Museum of Natural Science, and more. The students also tried their hand at kayaking and ice skating, and even had the opportunity to visit with Mayor Anise Parker, who took time to explain the City of Houston seal.
The highlight of this year's Program was undoubtedly the week spent at River Oaks Baptist School (ROBS). The Chiba Youth Ambassadors attended classes alongside their host sibling or school buddy. They also took the time to share Japanese culture through dance in a performance of the "soran bushi" in front of the entire school.
We commend the Chiba Youth Ambassadors and their ROBS hosts for having the initiative, courage, and maturity to embrace this opportunity to foster mutual understanding and friendship between the peoples of Houston and Chiba.
History of the Houston-Chiba Friendship
The Houston, Texas—Chiba City, Japan sister city relationship was established in 1972. Over the years, there have been many official and private exchanges and visitations between citizens of the two cities. As a two-way program, shared by both communities, the sister city relationship brings together both the municipal and volunteer community resources, and offers a mechanism for individuals and organizations, youths and adults, to be involved in the rewarding field of international relations.
Annual Youth Ambassador Exchange
The backbone of the Houston-Chiba Sister City relationship has long been the annual middle school student exchange program, which has been active since 1982. In alternating years, middle school students and a chaperone from each city participate in a homestay for two weeks. Students stay with host families, meet city officials, attend classes at middle school, interact with teens their age, make cultural presentations, and enjoy visiting local sights, while experiencing home and school life in a culture very different from their own. Participants gain new insights into another culture as well as their own, increase maturity and independence, make life-long friends, and become a part of a global community. Students are selected based upon their ability to demonstrate flexibility and an open mind, have an above-average academic record, and are involved in community and extracurricular activities.