Dignitaries and citizens from two continents converged last week to celebrate the burgeoning sisterhood between La Cañada Flintridge and Spain’s Villanueva de la Cañada at the third annual meeting of the La Cañada Flintridge Sister Cities Assn.
Held at Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy on Jan. 30, organizers provided a snapshot of the many collaborations and cross-national visits that have taken place since the two cities signed a sister cities agreement in May 2017.
In her welcoming remarks, association president and co-founder Vicki Schwartz recognized board members of the La Cañada Flintridge Sister Cities Assn., whose efforts have helped the organization thrive since its establishment in 2016.
“What we’ve accomplished in the past 2½ years, which I think is pretty remarkable, would not have been possible without the work of all the people here,” she said.
Guests were introduced to student delegates who represented La Cañada in an International Youth Summit held in Colorado last August and heard from students who participated in a summer exchange program last summer and hosted Spanish students in their homes.
Art Chmielewski, a program manager at La Cañada’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, explained how the two cities paired up for the first time ever to participate in this fall’s JPL Space Academy — an after-school program that lets students form virtual startup companies and launch “rockets” as they trade and sell one another’s stocks.
In June, 12 students and two instructors from the Space Academy have been invited to visit Villanueva de la Cañada’s SEK International School and its European Space Astronomy Centre, while nine Spanish students and three teachers will visit La Cañada Flintridge in July.
The annual meeting, emceed by Los Angeles Times columnist Chris Erskine, also featured remarks by La Cañada Flintridge Mayor Terry Walker and Villanueva de la Cañada Councilman Fernando Agudo, who addressed the audience through an interpreter.
“I’m really so, so grateful for this,” he said. “I don’t know what can happen in the future, but we hope that the relationship can continue in the years to come.”
Agudo announced that plans are currently afoot in the Spanish city to name a park after La Cañada Flintridge to honor the sisterhood between the two communities.
State Sen. Anthony Portantino officially recognized Agudo along with fellow visiting guests Ana Luisa Delclaux, president of the Asociación de Hermanamientos de Villanueva de La Cañada (the Spanish equivalent of the Sister Cities Assn.) and Randa Dayegh, the organization’s vice president.
Portantino traveled to Spain in 2017 to sign the sister cities agreement and said he was amazed by the hospitality of the people of Villanueva de la Cañada. He presented Schwartz with a senatorial proclamation for her contributions to the cause.