Carroll: Really beautiful community tradition
It is a remarkable thing to pluck a group of kids from the middle of nowhere — in this case, Aspen — and plop them in a completely foreign country and watch them thrive. It’s another thing to do this several times a year in different foreign countries with different kids. And then, it’s a whole other thing to do all of this year after year, decade after decade.
Our family has had the great, good fortune of having two of our three children travel to Shimukappu, Japan, with Aspen Sister Cities, in 2012 and 2022, respectively. (Check back in two years to see if we can make it a hat trick with our last kid.)
At the same time, we have experienced and witnessed many of the changes the Aspen community has sustained voluntarily and involuntarily over the past several years. That is one of the reasons why we have been so grateful the Sister Cities program remains unchanged in its commitment to championing peace by fostering bonds between people from different communities around the globe.
The COVID-19 pandemic may have frozen life in many ways, but our kids didn’t stop growing or wanting to. Being able to travel across the globe, especially after a couple of years of being mainly shuttered in the valley, was transformative.
The way in which the Sister Cities staff pulls these trips together is inspiring. There is both a rhyme and reason to each and every detail that goes into planning these trips. Knowledge is power, and arming everyone with as much information as possible allows them to take more ownership over themselves and the trip, as highly structured as it is.
The Aspen Sister Cities mission to share ideas and cultures through the international exchange of students goes beyond promoting peace through mutual respect and understanding. Giving these kids an opportunity to take meaningful steps to explore a new culture far outside of their comfort zone is an extraordinary thing to watch. That this opportunity comes when it does — in eighth grade and a little bit of ninth grade — creates a chance for us to see the culmination of so many years of growth fostered by the entire Aspen community.
On behalf of my family, thank you to the Aspen Sister Cities organization for continuing the hard but important work of upholding this really beautiful community tradition.