The cities of Tachikawa and San Bernardino are bound by ties strong enough to span an ocean. This year, the reciprocal cultural connection between the Japanese and California cities celebrates 60 years of friendship. A world apart, yet so close.

The Tachikawa-San Bernardino Sister City Program began in 1959, developing into a student exchange by 1962, offering high school students a chance to experience other cultures through this long-term friendship. On June 22, selected “Tachi” kids (San Bernardino teens) go to Tachikawa, Japan, where they will stay for a month with their Japanese host families.

When the students return in July, they will be accompanied by a “San” kid, their sister or brother from Japan, who will stay with their family in San Bernardino for a month and get to experience life in America.

During the past 60 years, hundreds of high school seniors have traveled both ways across the Pacific Ocean to immerse themselves in an exchange of cultures. During the month they host their counterparts, most of them fall in love with their host families and remain lifelong friends.

The 2019 Tachi Kids have been selected. They will all complete their junior year before the Tachikawa adventure begins in the summer. Four students have been chosen – three girls and one boy: Sophia Fleischman, Isabella Espinoza-Palomares and Angelina Hensley are all students at Cajon High School. Michael Avila attends California Virtual Academy.

Michael is the son of Michael and Jeanette Avila. He is taking AP classes at California Virtual Academy, and also attends San Bernardino Valley College. He is in the National Honor Society and is active in the California Virtual Academy Community Day projects including collecting clothes for Angels’ Closet. He is a Youth Board Member of the Sister Cities International Southern California Board of Directors and was awarded a scholarship to attend a Youth Leadership Summit at the annual Sister Cities International Conference in Washington, D.C. He is interested in learning about different cultures, learning different languages, and getting to know people from other places.

“This is an amazing growth experience,” said Michael to the San Bernardino Sun in an article, “and I’m looking forward to spending time with my family.” All four of the Tachi Kids are taking 10 weeks of Japanese language classes taught by instructor Daniel Padilla at Cajon High.

Under the auspices of Sister Cities International, the San Bernardino-Tachikawa Sister City Committee co-sponsors the program, which is run on donations and fundraisers. Selection chairwoman and board member Judy Maculsay said she was looking forward to the activities in San Bernardino, when all the students are back.

“Every summer since my own daughter went to Japan in 1992, I have watched and listened to students from Japan and San Bernardino exchange ideas and philosophies,” she said. “They soon find out how similar they are even though they were raised miles apart.”

Jeanette Avila, treasurer of the nonprofit Sister City Committee, was herself a Tachi kid in 1980. “It’s a very exciting time for all of us,” she said. “Each year, we watch the kids come and go, but this year we can stand back and enjoy.”

For the 60th anniversary of the Sister City Program, the committee and founding member Dr. Thelma Press invite the community to attend “60 Years of Friendship” on May 25, with a social hour, a program and buffet dinner, as well as special recognition and entertainment.

Article from the San Bernardino Sun