This summer marked a milestone for the city of La Cañada Flintridge — for the first time ever, two local youths hosted international exchange students from Villanueva de La Cañada, Spain, and traveled abroad, staying as guest in those students' home.
The exchange program is one of several opportunities offered to students through the La Cañada Flintridge Sister Cities Assn. It was a life-changing experience for La Cañada High School now-senior Jack Applebaum and Catherine Condit, a senior at Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy.
"A friend and I really want to go back there next summer, after senior year," said Condit, who hosted Spanish student Eva Prieto Perez in her family's Pasadena home for two weeks in July then traveled to Spain to stay with Eva's family. "It's fun knowing I have global friends."
Now, the local nonprofit is looking for students currently attending La Cañada schools in grades 9 through 11 who may be interested in participating in next year's summer exchange program or representing La Cañada at a Sister Cities International Youth Leadership Summit in Colorado in August.
Applications, along with details and requirements, are available online at lcfsistercities.org. Completed applications must be turned into the city clerk's office or received by mail at the La Cañada Flintridge Sister Cities Assn. by Jan. 8. Need-based scholarships may be available to help cover travel costs.
Interested students can learn more about the programs and pick up applications this Sunday at 2 p.m., when the LCF Sister Cities Youth Group holds its quarterly meeting at the Community Center of La Cañada Flintridge, 4469 Chevy Chase Drive.
There, guest Nia Lyte — a TED Talk speaker and former exchange student whose nonprofit Koyamada International Foundation works to empower underprivileged women and children and aids in foreign disaster relief — will talk about the importance of maintaining a global perspective.
Vicki Schwartz, president and founder of the La Cañada Flintridge Sister Cities Assn., said participating in international events and exchange programs is a great way to broaden students' thinking and experience.
"It's a first step at looking at a bigger world," Schwartz said.
Recalling her trip abroad, Condit said she enjoyed making friends with students from another culture, testing her three years of high school Spanish and pushing herself outside her comfort zone.
"The best advice I could give somebody would be to be fearless," she said. "You've just got to go for it — just take the leap."
For more information, visit lcfsistercities.org.