On the second day of Sister Cities International’s Annual Conference in San Jose last July, Ajaipal Chahal received good news. Chahal was named the Youth Representative for the Sister Cities International Board of Directors of the United States. In his new role, Chahal is eager to create new opportunities for young people.
“I have a great responsibility to fulfill as Youth Representative,” says Chahal, an articulate junior attending Santa Clara High School. “One of my goals is to create more youth involvement in Sister Cities internationally and nationally, and to make student exchanges more affordable by [advocating for] scholarships on the national level from the organization.
“To become Youth Representative, there’s a nomination process where applicants have to answer some questions and get a letter of recommendation,” Chahal continues. “Councilmember Debi Davis wrote my letter of recommendation, and I’m very grateful to her. A committee approved the applications. After that, members in 500 Sister Cities programs across the United States voted for the Youth Representative. It felt amazing [to learn I was elected].”
In 2013, Chahal traveled abroad to visit Izumo, Japan with the assistance of a $1,500 scholarship offered through the Santa Clara Sister Cities Association. In Izumo, Chahal experienced Japanese culture and made new friends.
“After that trip, I was elected the president of the Sister Cities Youth Commission in Santa Clara,” Chahal says. “As president, I pushed for grassroots fundraising so that every student can get some form of scholarship when they go to Portugal or Japan. We’re hoping to send students to Limerick in the near future. Fundraising has been a big part of the Santa Clara Sister Cities Association even before I got involved. Not every Sister Cities organization in the United States has this kind of grassroots fundraising.”
The work of Sister Cities International has opened Chahal’s eyes to the importance of sharing cultures, so societies can progress to become more peaceful with one another. He says that when President Eisenhower started the Sister Cities program in 1956, Eisenhower saw the value in having local municipalities connect with each other and work toward world peace.
“Sister Cities has inspired me to become more interested in International Relations,” Chahal says. “That’s something I would highly consider when I apply to colleges. Sister Cities has also helped me learn how countries interact with each other, and it has helped me think about how we can create a better world with citizen diplomacy.”
The Santa Clara Sister Cities Association will be selling Portuguese sandwiches to fundraise for youth scholarships at the Santa Clara Art and Wine festival on Sept. 13-14.
Chahal encourages young people interested in becoming involved with the Santa Clara Sister Cities Association to email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.