Grand Junction, Colorado Wins Sister Cities International’s Innovation Award for Youth and Education

WASHINGTON, DC – Grand Junction, Colorado has won the Sister Cities International 2019 Innovation Award for Youth and Education for a city with a population of 25,001- 100,000. The awards competition, which is open to over 500 sister city programs nationwide, recognizes the accomplishments of outstanding individuals and community sister city programs that are promoting peace through mutual respect, understanding, and cooperation.

Grand Junction Sister Cities started their scholarship program in 2009 after the community’s Mesa Ciudadana, or Citizens’ Roundtable, approached GJSC and told them that what their community really needed was an opportunity for their children to get an education. School is technically public in El Salvador, but the cost of high school made it essentially out of reach for many of the families in our sister city, whose citizens live well below the poverty line.

Grand Junction Sister Cities began the scholarship program with three high school students, and a total budget of $900. Since then, the program has grown to 35 current scholarship recipients and more than 15 alumni, as well as an annual budget of approximately $34,000. The scholarships start in the first year of high school and continue through college.

The program design is deliberate and important because their students have ongoing support, encouragement, and above all, accountability. Families become stakeholders in the scholarship, and by extension, in their student’s academics. Both parents and students build community and widen their support network as they spend time and work together while they attend workshops and training sessions on a wide range of issues. The scholarship recipients become committed to their community and to its success as they work to identify and solve many of its problems.

“We all stand to learn from these superstar Sister City programs as they impact their communities across a broad range of sectors that include business entrepreneurship, youth leadership, and arts and culture,” said Roger-Mark De Souza, Sister Cities International’s President & CEO. “These individuals and local organizations inspire us to be better citizens as their work exemplifies President Eisenhower’s vision of engaged international citizen diplomats. They create beneficial connections and lasting relationships which will help their communities today and for years to come.”

Sister Cities International Annual Awards recognize excellence in overall programming and highlight key innovations in arts and culture; business and trade; humanitarian assistance; youth and education; and professional and technical exchange categories. We also honor a Volunteer of the Year and our Youth Leadership who demonstrate exceptional efforts to advance peace through citizen diplomacy. This year we will honor all our award winners during SCI’s 2019 Annual Conference from July 17-19 in Houston, Texas.

The conference will bring together hundreds of the most influential citizen diplomats and global leaders in diplomacy, foreign affairs, policy, business, and innovation to discuss, share examples, and network. This year’s theme, Cities Mean Business, will focus on smart and resilient cities, leadership development, and entrepreneurship as key building blocks of President Eisenhower’s vision of creating a more peaceful world through citizen engagement and international cooperation between cities.

Founded as a Presidential Initiative by Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956, Sister Cities International serves as the national membership organization for 500 member communities with over 2,000 partnerships in more than 140 countries on six continents. The sister city network unites tens of thousands of citizen diplomats and volunteers who work tirelessly to promote the organizations’ mission of creating world peace and understanding through programs and projects focusing on arts and culture, youth and education, business and trade, and community development.

About Grand Junction Sister Cities: 

Contact: Anna Stout ([email protected])