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Arts & Culture - Sister Cities Program

Program Overview

Clearwater Sister Cities Inc Seeks 2015 Young Ambassadors

In June 2015, Clearwater Sister Cities, Inc. will be accompanying a group of middle school students from local schools on a two week trip to Japan, which will include a homestay in Clearwater's sister city of Nagano and a visit to some of the cultural and historic highlights of Japan in, typically, Tokyo, Kyoto, and Hiroshima.
Students wishing to participate may visit download the application form. Click for Application.

Though the exact cost of this year's trip is not yet finalized, it is anticipated to be close to $3000, as in past years. That cost will include airfare, train passes while touring, accomodations, entry fees to attractions, and two meals per day. Any spending money and the cost of additional meals will be the responsibility of the participant. Travel medical insurance and a valid passport will be required as well as completion of certain waivers and releases and agreement to a code of conduct.

Questions may be directed to clearwatersistercities@gmail.com.

Nagano sealSister City - Nagano, Japan

"The men and women participating actively in the Sister City Program do more than talk about world understanding, they are contributing their ideas, resources and brotherhood to improve international understanding on a planet that grows smaller with each count-down." - Edward R. Murrow

Visit the Nagano City Web site

Background

Clearwater, Florida has enjoyed Sister City relations with Nagano, Japan since 1959 when Mayor Kurashima of Nagano came to the United States. He was searching for a city with similar economic and community needs and wished to develop new friendships, ideas and business partnerships.

Image of Zenkoji Temple located in Nagano, Japan
Zenkoji Temple in Nagano, Japan

The ancient Zenkoji Temple located in Nagano, Japan and the beaches of Clearwater both attract large numbers of tourists each year. Mayor Kurashima saw the great potential of a shared bond between the two cities.

The exchanges have grown through the years. The current Mayor of Nagano, Mayor Shoichi Washizawa, is extremely committed to continuous interaction, which has resulted in cultural understanding, immeasurable friendships and the enhancement of the Sister City program.

The teacher and student exchanges have been the backbone of the Sister City Program. Every year Nagano sends two teachers for a one month working visitation. The teachers are placed with volunteer homestay families and Pinellas County School System coordinates the school schedule. Nagano also sends a group of middle school students and subsequently another group of high school students for one week of homestay and school visitation in Clearwater.

Image of Clearwater Students in Nagano
Clearwater Students in Nagano, Japan

The Pinellas School Board of Education teacher exchange program began in 1983. Currently, two teachers are sent for one month in the summer to live with a homestay and teach English at several schools. The student exchange program, initiated in 1990, comprises a group of four students and a teacher/chaperone. Their purpose is to attend middle schools, give presentations, interact with students and enjoy life with a homestay family. Students previously stayed in Nagano for one month. Starting in 2005, the length of stay was changed to two weeks.

These mutually beneficial exchanges have had an extremely positive impact in promoting and nurturing cross-cultural relations in educational and community arenas. Long lasting friendships, deeper understanding and appreciation for our respective cultures are the bonds that connect our cities and make us one.

Host Family Help

Our greatest obstacle to making a smooth exchange is finding suitable host families. Sister Cities is compiling a list of families willing to host either students or adults. Depending upon the exchange arrangement, hosting could be as short as a few days or as long as two weeks. Host families are expected to make arrangements for their guest to be dropped off and picked up according to a preplanned schedule. This seems to be the greatest challenge for our families, so if you have contemplated hosting a student or adult, please allow us to see how we may assist you. Many times a student may attend the same school as your child. Don't forget your neighbors. You may be surprised to discover that they are either willing to help with transportation or interested in becoming a host family themselves. Please consider exploring this opportunity and sharing our need with others. For additional information please contact Felicia Leonard at 562-4852.


Clearwater Sister Cities, Inc. Membership

Annual Membership in the Clearwater Sister City Organization is $15 per individual or $25 per family. The organization promotes global friendship, communication and understanding through exchanges and activities. For more information, contact clearwatersistercites@gmail.com, or download a membership application here. You may also find additional information by visiting the Clearwater Sister Cities Facebook page and clicking "Like".


Program Highlights

Young Ambassadors visit to Nagano Japan - June 2014

Image of Nagano

Image of Students arriving on bus

Image of Students

Nagano Middle School Cultural Student Exchange Program known as the "Young Ambassadors" recently sent twelve middle school students and two chaperones to Nagano, Japan for two weeks. They had a chance to live with host families who had children of a similar age. They also experienced the country's language, culture and school system.

The Young Ambassadors enjoyed their visit and will always have the memories they made during their stay in Japan.

 


Image of Young Ambassadors

Clearwater Sister Cities Inc.'s Young Ambassadors meets the Japanese World Cup Team in Clearwater June, 2014

Deputy Consul General Visit to Clearwater, March 2014

March 5, 2014, Masahiro Ogino, Deputy Consul General of Japan, traveled from his office in Miami to visit the City of Clearwater and was greeted at City Hall by Mayor Cretekos, City Manager Bill Horne, Friendship Force & Sister Cities Advisory Board member Terry Gourdine as well as city staff involved in with the Sister City Exchange program. The spirit of the meeting was to continue cultivating goodwill between Nagano Japan and City of Clearwater in the interest of expanding cultural understanding and international unity.

Image of Masahiro Ogino visit

In picture left to right: Marsha Beall, Terry Gourdine, City Manager Bill Horne, Mr. Ogino, Mayor Cretekos, Felicia Leonard, Christopher Hubbard

Middle School Student Exchange Visit, February 22-27, 2014

On February 22, the City of Clearwater welcomed Tour Guide Mr. Koji Watanabe, Matsushiro Junior High Teacher’s Mr. Shigenori Nozawa and Ms. Mayumi Tokutake along with twelve middle school students from Nagano, Japan as part of the Sister Cities exchange program. They arrived on a Saturday evening and spent Sunday at Walt Disney World in Orlando. The students spent two days visiting Safety Harbor Middle School where they observed classes and gave presentations about their lives in Japan. They visited City Hall, Clearwater Marine Aquarium, and even caught a practice game at Bright House Field. Their trip ended with a Sayonara Party held in their honor at Countryside Recreation Center. Mayor Cretekos, City Manager Bill Horne and Councilmember Jonson officially thanked our Homestay Families for opening their hearts and homes to these visitors, Clearwater Arts Alliance, Clearwater Sister Cities Inc. and Pinellas County Schools for their continuous support to the Sister Cities Program. A special thanks to Felicia Leonard, Chris Hubbard, Marsha Beall for coordinating the program.

Image of exchange visit Image of exchange visit
Image of exchange visit Image of exchange visit

Middle School Teacher Visit: October - November, 2013

Teachers and students from Clearwater's Sister City, Nagano, Japan, have traded places to learn more about each other's cultures for 30 years.

English teacher Mr. Shinga Tuskada visited Clearwater for a month to watch and learn how Clearwater teachers educate their students. "It's a good chance to know how these students think," said Tuskada.

In an effort to give him a warm welcome, Tuskada was picked up by Safety Harbor teacher, Krista Valentage who also had a chance to experience how students in Nagano think. Valentage participated in the program two years ago. Mr. Tuskada also spent classroom time at Tarpon Springs MS, Dunedin Highland MS and Countryside HS. His home stay families included Mr. & Mrs. Wisemiller, Ms. Judy Barrett, Ms. Jonna Douglass and the Daryl Schuster Family. During his visit he tour our beautiful city and enjoyed Bright House Fields and Clearwater Beach.

Felicia Leonard introduced Mr. Tuskada to Mayor Cretekos and Council.

Image of visit Image of visit

Middle School Student Exchange Visit: March 20-26, 2013

Tour Guide Mr. Koji Watanabe escorted Matsushiro Junior High School Principal Mr. Shoji Kubota, Board of Education representative Mr. Fuminori Karaki and twelve middle school students from Nagano, Japan to Clearwater as part of the Sister Cities exchange program. Although their visit was short, the students spent two days visiting Safety Harbor Middle School where they observed classes and gave presentations about their lives in Japan. They had the opportunity to visit City Hall, Clearwater Marine Aquarium, Bright House Field and even spend a day at Walt Disney World in Orlando. Their trip ended with a Sayonara Party held in their honor at Countryside Recreation Center. City Manager Bill Horne and Councilmember Jonson officially thanked our Homestay Families for opening their hearts and homes to these visitors, Clearwater Arts Alliance, Clearwater Sister Cities Inc. and Pinellas County Schools for their continuous support to the Sister Cities Program. A special thanks to Felicia Leonard, Chris Hubbard, Marsha Beall and the volunteers for coordinating the program.

Image of Middle School Exchange Student visitImage of Middle School Exchange Student visitImage of Middle School Exchange Student visit
Image of Middle School Exchange Student visitImage of Middle School Exchange Student visit

Nagano City's February 2013 Lantern Festival

Clearwater citizens and city employees created design panels for the lanterns used in Nagano City's February 2013 Lantern Festival.

The Nagano Lantern Festival is an event that commemorates the Nagano Winter Olympics and has been held every year since 2004. This wintry nighttime festival was founded upon the premise of the passing on Olympic aspirations for peace to future generations. The lanterns at the centerpiece of the festival disseminate this hope to the world.

Image of lanterns in street
Image of lantern Image of lantern Image of lantern

Consulate General Visit to Clearwater: January 2013
Consul General Kawahara & Mayor Cretekos

Middle School Teacher Visit: October - November, 2012

Image of Ms. Miyashita Image of Ms. Miyashita

As part of the annual exchange program, the City of Clearwater welcomed Ms. Sachiko Miyashita for one month beginning October 14, 2012. Ms. Miyashita is a Middle School English teacher in Nagano-city.

During her stay, Ms. Miyashita was placed with volunteer homestay families and Pinellas County School System coordinated the school visits. Her schedule included presentations and observations at five area schools, including Chi Chi Academy, Blanton ES, Safety Harbor Middle School, Bayside High School and Countryside High School. She had the opportunity to visit City Hall and meet our government officials. Ms. Miyashita also enjoyed a tour of our city, Beach by Design and Clearwater Marine Aquarium.

Pinellas County School's Teachers Exchange Visit: July 2012

Since 1983, Pinellas County Board of Education sends two exchange teachers over to Nagano Japan for one month each year for a working visitation. This year, Krista Valentage and Nicole Rao were selected as exchange teachers from Safety Harbor MS. The teachers are placed with volunteer home stay families and the Pinellas County School System coordinates the school schedule while they are there. Here are pictures Nagano shared as they arrived safely in Nagano and as they met with the mayor, the superintendent and city officials.

Image of teachers Image of teachers
Image of teachers

View the August 2012 CSCI Newsletter.

Each year since 1999, the Clearwater Sisters Cities Inc. hosts the Clearwater - Nagano Middle School Cultural Student Exchange Program known as the "Young Ambassadors". To apply for the exchange, middle school students must obtain teacher recommendations, write an essay, and complete a series of interviews before invited to participate.

This program offers young people the opportunity to immerse themselves in the country's language and culture as they stay with local families. In addition, they visit and give presentations to schools in the Nagano area, and get involved in educational exchanges. Rich Wisemiller, who has been employed by Pinellas County Schools for twenty years has been traveling with the Young Ambassador students for the past ten years. During this trip he had the pleasure to met John V. Roos, US Ambassador to Japan.

Middle School Student Exchange Visit: October 17-21, 2011

Twelve middle school students and two adults from Nagano, Japan were in Clearwater from October 17-21 as part of the Sister City exchange program. During their short visit, Councilmember Jonson welcomed our guest at City Hall where they each had a turn at "ringing the bell" and exchanging gifts. They enjoyed a visit to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium and Disney Orlando. The students visited Palm Harbor Middle and Safety Harbor Middle Schools where they observed classes and gave presentations about their lives in Japan. Their trip ended with a Sayonara Party in their honor held at Countryside Recreation Center.

Read the Winter 2011 Sister Cities Newsletter for more details.

Image of Nagano exchange event Image of Nagano exchange event
Image of Nagano visitors in ClearwaterOur Japanese visitors always devise a wonderful performance for our Sayonara Parties. Students here added to the festivity by dressing in their Happi coats.
Image of Mayor and Nina Maran
Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard and Nina Maran join our guests, homestay families, and others at Countryside Recreation Center for our traditional Sayonara party.

High School Student Exchange Visit: March 5-14, 2011

Five high school students and two adults from Nagano, Japan were in Clearwater from March 5-14 as part of the Sister City exchange program. The students visited Clearwater and East Lake High Schools where they observed classes and gave presentations about their lives in Japan. They also enjoyed visits to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium and Kennedy Space Center.  Because of the earthquakes and tsunami, the upcoming scheduled middle school visit from Nagano has been postponed. Please keep our Sister City residents of Nagano in your thoughts and prayers during this unprecedented time. We understand that Nagano city sustained minor damage.

Image of Nagano exchange representatives

Clearwater Sister Cities, Inc. International Bazaar - March 23 - 24, 2011

Clearwater Main Library atrium, 100 N. Osceola Avenue

Clearwater Sister Cities, Inc. held an International Bazaar on Wednesday, March 23 from 4:00 - 6:30 p.m. and Thursday, March 24 from 10:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m. at the Clearwater Main Library atrium (100 N. Osceola Avenue). This was a great opportunity to acquire unique items of an international flair.

Clearwater Sister Cities is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization; all donations are tax deductible. Funds raised will be used to support the Clearwater Sister Cities student exchange programs with Nagano, Japan.

Lantern Festival 2011

Clearwater citizens and city employees created design panels for the lanterns used in Nagano City's February 2011 Lantern Festival.

Lantern Festival 2011
Zenkou Ji - shrine - Lantern Festival,
Illumination opening ceremony.

Image of Kenzo KawashimaMiddle School Teacher Visit: October - November, 2010

As part of the annual exchange program, a Nagano middle school teacher, Mr. Kenzo Kawashima,  had the opportunity to experience Florida culture for one month beginning October 17, 2010. He teaches at Matshshiro Junior High School in Nagano City.

The teacher was placed with volunteer homestay families and Pinellas County School System coordinates the school visits.  His schedule included presentations and observations at seven area schools, including Bayside High, Carwise Middle, Chi Chi Academy, Countryside High School, Dunedin Highland Middle, Tarpon Springs and Vincero Academy.  He also enjoyed tours of city facilities, Beach by Design and Bright House Fields.

2010 High School Student Exchanges

As part of the Sister Cities Clearwater/Nagano student exchange program, four Clearwater area students traveled two weeks to Japan in June 2010. The students were Katie Bosley from Clearwater High School,  Ariana Lazzaroni from Palm Harbor University High School, Rachel Lubitz from Countryside High School and Vonabell Sherman, a home-school student.  Ms. Linda Damsky, from Pinellas County Schools and a Sister Cities Advisory Board member, accompanied the students.

The high school students were participating in a tradition of educational exchanges between Clearwater and Nagano that has continued for many years.  As ambassadors, they spent two weeks in Nagano, meet with the Mayor, attended local schools and learned about life in Japan. Since their return to Clearwater, they will be sharing their experiences with the City Council, Sister Cities, Inc. and other organizations around Clearwater.

Read about Vonabell's experience

A Delegation from Nagano, Japan Visited Clearwater on Friday, April 23, 2010 to Celebrate the Sister Cities Relationship's 50th Anniversary

Image of delegates visiting Clearwater

View more photos of the delegates' visit here.

Clearwater is celebrating its 50th anniversary as the sister city of Nagano, Japan, and a delegation from the city, including Nagano Mayor Soichi Washizawa and Mrs. Washizawa, along with other officials and citizens from Nagano (seventeen people in all), marked the occasion with a reciprocal visit to Clearwater. Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard and city officials made the trip to Nagano in the fall of 2009. The Nagano delegates stayed at the Sheraton Sand Key Resort and with homestay families.

Image of Mayor Soichi Washizawa
Nagano Mayor Soichi Washizawa

The delegation's visit began on Friday, April 23, at 9 a.m., at Clearwater City Hall, 112 S. Osceola Ave. Clearwater's Mayor Frank Hibbard or other city Councilmembers, Clearwater Sister City officials, and Clearwater city employees were on hand for each event. The welcoming ceremonies began with a continental breakfast followed by mayoral welcome, entertainers, ringing of the ceremonial bell from Nagano in the City Hall lobby, remarks and an exchange of official gifts. Friday evening, there was a dinner reception at the Sheraton Sand Key, hosted by the Clearwater Sister Cities, Inc organization. Events taking place on Saturday, April 24th, included a business meeting with area stakeholders and associated partners in the Sister Cities relationship, including City of Clearwater officials and staff, Clearwater Chamber of Commerce representative, Sister Cities Board members, Pinellas County Schools representatives and alumni of the Clearwater/Nagano exchange student program.  A Sayonara party took place at the Clearwater Main Library, and the visitors enjoyed the festivities at Coachman Park for the Fun n Sun jazz concert.

Clearwater has enjoyed Sister City relations with Nagano, Japan since 1959 when Mayor Kurashima of Nagano came to the United States. He was searching for a city with similar economic and community needs and wished to develop new friendships, ideas and business partnerships. The exchanges between the two cities have grown through the years, culminating in a hospitality center that was a collaboration of the two cities at the XVIII Winter Olympic Games in 1998. The current Mayor of Nagano, Mayor Shoichi Washizawa, is extremely committed to continuous interaction, which has resulted in cultural understanding, immeasurable friendships and the enhancement of the Sister City program.

Clearwater citizens and city employees created design panels for the lanterns used in Nagago City's February 2010 Lantern Festival

Image of 2010 Nagano Lantern Festival
View pictures from Nagano Lantern Festival

Exchange students visit Clearwater Feb. 6-13, 2010

As part of the ongoing exchange visits between Clearwater and Nagano, five high school students and their teacher/chaperone arrived on Saturday, Feb. 6. The group will stay with homestay families for a week and visit three area schools. Clearwater, Countryside and Eastlake High Schools have graciously offered to host, again this year. The students will visit St. Petersburg College, Clearwater Campus, tour areas of interest, and take a trip to Disney.

Image of Sister Cities students Image of Sister Cities students Image of Sister Cities students

Members of City Council travel to Nagano, Japan to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Sister Cities relationship

Animated image of photos from 50th anniversary trip

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the sister city relationship between the City of Clearwater and Nagano City, Japan. The program has its roots in an initiative begun by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. In 1956, a people-to-people movement for citizen diplomacy was established with the goal of creating a free and peaceful world. More than fifty years later, the Sister City Program continues to thrive. Currently, Sister Cities International represents 694 communities in the United States with 1,992 partnerships and 1,749 international communities in 134 countries.

During the next two years, the City of Clearwater and Nagano City, Japan plan to commemorate this longstanding affiliation with various celebrations. Nagano invited Clearwater to participate in their annual February lantern festival. A special section of the event featured designs submitted from Clearwater citizens with messages of peace displayed in illuminated lanterns that lined the streets of Nagano. Clearwater held a similar event in its downtown during the annual Fun ‘n Sun Festival this past April.

Members of the City Council and their spouses traveled to Japan in October, 2009, to attend a ceremony honoring the 50th anniversary of the sister city relationship. While there, the official delegation participated in a 'samurai parade' and met with the mayor of Nagano City.

View Streaming Video of the 50th Anniversary Visit

The Japanese Culture and Lantern Festival was held on Saturday, April 25, 2009 at Station Square Park, 612 Cleveland Street

This event honored the city's 50th anniversary with its sister city of Nagano, Japan. Demonstrations of traditional Japanese martial activities included judo, kendo, and yagyu. Other Japanese traditions displayed were the art of kimono, tea ceremonies, bonsai, sumi-e painting, calligraphy, and origami. Musical performances included taiko drummers and the koto, a Japanese stringed instrument. The event culminated with a lantern lighting ceremony and a parade, with patrons of the event carrying hand-held lanterns provided by Nagano City. Co-sponsored by the Consulate General of Japan.

Clearwater and Nagano, Japan Celebrate a Golden Anniversary

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the sister city relationship between the City of Clearwater and Nagano City, Japan. The program has its roots in an initiative begun by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. In 1956, a people-to-people movement for citizen diplomacy was established with the goal of creating a free and peaceful world. More than fifty years later, the Sister City Program continues to thrive. Currently, Sister Cities International represents 694 communities in the United States with 1,992 partnerships and 1,749 international communities in 134 countries.

During the next two years, the City of Clearwater and Nagano City, Japan plan to commemorate this longstanding affiliation with various celebrations. Nagano invited Clearwater to participate in their annual February lantern festival. A special section of the event featured designs submitted from Clearwater citizens with messages of peace displayed in illuminated lanterns that lined the streets of Nagano. Clearwater held a similar event in its downtown during the annual Fun ‘n Sun Festival this past April.

Mayor Frank Hibbard and his wife will travel to Japan in October, 2009, along with several other members of the City Council, to attend a ceremony honoring the 50th anniversary of the sister city relationship. While there, the official delegation will participate in a 'samurai parade' and meet with the mayor of Nagano City.

Nagano Teachers to Clearwater in Oct. - Nov.

Image of Nagano Delegation in Clearwater
Clearwater hosts delegation from Japan – April 2005

Clearwater Sister Cities, Inc. and the City of Clearwater welcomed a delegation of dignitaries and citizens from Nagano, Japan. The previous summer, fifty-three Clearwater representatives including City Council members, teachers, students and citizens visited Nagano to celebrate the 45th anniversary of the Sister City relationship.

The reciprocal visit was a wonderful opportunity for Clearwater to host our international friends, show- off our Clearwater scenery, and display our Southern hospitality. Discussions between the cities explored ways of increasing cultural, educational, business, and tourism exchanges.

Nagano High School and Middle School Students to Clearwater in February and March

Every year families in the Clearwater community open their homes to students from Japan. The students visit middle and high schools in Clearwater to teach students about their culture and experience education in America. On the students off days, the Clearwater families take them to the highlights in Clearwater: the beach, the marina, recreation centers and community parks.

Image of Clearwater Students in Nagano
In summer 2007, Lucy Feigel, Ben Popp, Zach Tranter and Joey Stokes, accompanied by teacher Stacie Little, spent two weeks teaching Japanese students about their experiences in America. The students volunteered for the city to fundraise for their trip.

Clearwater to Nagano in Summer

4 local High School Students + Chaperone to Nagano

Every summer Clearwater sends four High School students and one chaperone to participate in our cultural exchange with Japan. The four students are picked from a competitive pool of applicants and travel to Japan for a reasonable cost. The students stay with a screened homestay and spend two weeks immersed in Japanese culture. Activities include visiting local attractions, giving presentations at local schools and meeting the mayor of Nagano. If you or your child is interested in this program, please pick up an application from your high school's guidance, foreign language or social studies department.

Young Ambassadors Program

The Clearwater - Nagano Middle School Cultural Student Exchange Program began in 1999 and has sponsored exchange trips ever since. In 2004, in celebration of the 45th Anniversary of the Sister City relationship, 45 students, teachers, and city officials went to Nagano.

The application and interview process typically occurs in December.

Since its inception, the program has taken over 60 students and their chaperones to Nagano, Hiroshima, Kyoto, Nara, and Tokyo, Japan.

Image of Clearwater Students in Nagano
2007 Young Ambassadors

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