(Read Choi’s essay below)
Two community members representing the Santa Clarita Sister Cities program are among a few distinguished young artists and authors to be recognized at this year’s Sister Cities International annual conference in San Antonio, Tex., July 12 through 14.
“The City is thrilled to have two youth participants from our Sister Cities program recognized for their contributions to strengthening cultural understanding through writing and art,” said Mayor Bob Kellar.
Youth, ages 13-to-18, were asked to create an original work of art, essay or poem to capture the theme – the power of exchange.
Ashley Choi, a Valencia High School student, was awarded the $1,000 grand prize forher essay, “The Powerful Exchange of Love.”
“This is the first time a local student has won the grand prize for a submission featured as part of this international program,” Kellar said.
Capturing the true essence of this year’s Sister Cities theme, the essay was chosen based on Ashley’s real-life experiences, generosity, and selflessness in helping others within remote communities.
Charmaine Agawin, from Santa Clarita’s sister city Sariaya, Philippines, was also chosen as one of five international finalists for her artwork, “Enlightenment and Progress through Exchange.”
”We’re excited to show the world how Santa Clarita is creating and strengthening partnerships in our city as well as other international communities,” Kellar said.
Both the essay and artwork will be showcased at the Sister Cities International annual conference, with the art piece touring select United States cities in the coming year.
The Santa Clarita Valley International Program, through its Sister Cities Program and in partnership with the City of Santa Clarita, offers local students the unique opportunity to submit entries for the annual Young Authors and Artists Showcase in the spring of each year.
These art and literary competitions give students the opportunity to express their ideas of global citizenship, cross-cultural communication, and global issues through different art forms.
Sister Cities International is a non-profit organization that fosters partnership among communities around the globe to promote peace through mutual respect, understanding and cooperation, one individual at a time.
Santa Clarita currently has a Sister Cities relationship with Tena, Ecuador in South America and Sariaya, Quezon in the Philippines.
– David Mariuz
The Powerful Exchange of Love
Seung Won Choi
Santa Clarita Sister Cities
Santa Clarita, CA
When the word of exchange comes to mind, many people think of two groups of people who exchange goods for the benefit of each other. In history, we have seen two different groups exchange each other. But as time passed, communities have come together filled with compassion to help others. I believe that this type of exchange is especially powerful to not only one side of the exchange, but to both. Through these exchanges, we fill up each other’s weaknesses and needs. Today, society helps one other through our strengths to give to others. Through this powerful exchange, talents and gifts can be given to other areas of the world. To me, when I hear the “power of exchange,” I think of my trip to Mexico in the summer.
During the summer, I was blessed to be able to have the opportunity to go to Mexico to build a house for the less fortunate in Mexico. These people lived with conditions that were different from what I was used to. I spent four days building a house with a group of people for this family without a home. Building this home, I felt like I was exchanging love and effort into this house that would become an important part of the family’s lives. I felt that I was able to give this new family a house built with love, while I was able to receive the family’s heart of thankfulness. Instead of feeling like I only gave something to this family, I felt like I received something much more important. I was able to realize how blessed I am to live in such a sheltered society not having to have any problems financially or any first-world problems that strike many families today. While building this house, I was able to communicate with the family even though we were from two different places without a common language. Through common interests and ideas, I was not only able to build a house, but a relationship out of love. Through this experience, the long-term effect it had on me was that I was able to learn more about the world that we live in, instead of only being limited to the society that I live in. I was able to make new friends through this memorable exchange and remember how important it is to help others.
My experience in Mexico had a profound effect on not only on the community, but to me especially. I believe that the exchange between these two different groups is significant and can help the world to become closer together as one united society. This experience left me striving to have a compassionate heart that seeks other opportunities to help other unfortunate people in the world. Ultimately, this type of exchange can help the community to change for the better, hand-in-hand.