Exchange students (copy)

A Sisters Cities exchange group stands in Meissen main square during a previous exchange trip.

SIERRA VISTA — For an authentic taste of Germany, be sure to order a homemade schnitzel dinner Friday evening through a fundraiser organized by the Sierra Vista Sister Cities Association in support of a student exchange program.

“Every year, we love serving our schnitzel dinner to the residents of Sierra Vista and our veterans,” said Susann Himstedt-Gilbert, Sister Cities Association president.

Proceeds from the dinner benefit the Sister Cities student exchange program where a group of high school students travel to Radebeul, Germany to experience the country’s schools, history, landmarks and culture. Students from Cannanea, Mexico, which is Sierra Vista’s Sister City south of the border, also participate in the Radebeul trip.

“COVID has caused us to change how we’re doing things this year,” Himstedt-Gilbert said. “For the first time, we’re offering online pre-ordering which is brand new for us, but we’re hopeful that the community takes full advantage of it.”

“Another big change is that our venue is being moved from the VFW to the American Legion at 12 Theater Drive. We want to extend our appreciation to the American Legion for allowing us to use their kitchen and dining facility since the VFW is closed.”

The pandemic has also forced the association to put its student exchange on hold until October, 2021, Himstedt-Gilbert said. “We hope to be sending a delegation of Buena students to Radebeul at that time. The German students will then visit Sierra Vista in the spring of 2022.”

The Sister Cities Association works with the Sierra Vista City Council in creating and promoting cultural and humanitarian partnerships with international communities. The association partnered with Cananea, Mexico in 1989, followed by Radebeul, Germany in 1998 to conduct cultural, educational, and goodwill exchange programs.

Each year, the association focuses its efforts on the student exchanges, humanitarian outreach, and the celebration of cultural diversity.

The student exchanges are intended as an educational and cultural experience. Every fall, eight local youth join eight students from Cananea for a two-week experience in Radebeul where they are hosted by German families, visit high schools, tour government offices, factories and economic sectors, and take day trips to neighboring Prague and historic Berlin.

As part of the exchange, German students come to Sierra Vista for a week-and-a-half in the spring where they tour Southern Arizona, the Grand Canyon, San Xavier Mission, the Desert Museum and much more. The German students also travel to Cananea for a week and stay with the families of students they hosted while in Germany.

At the end of the exchange, Sierra Vista students and families from all three countries attend a potluck and formal goodbye, an event that Himstedt-Gilbert describes as “truly emotional.”

Cost for the trip is about $4,000 per year. The families are only expected to provide airfare for their child.

Students are asked to fill out a questionnaire and write an essay explaining why they should be chosen to participate in the exchange and what they hope to learn from the experience. They also give presentations about the trip to the Sierra Vista Unified School District Governing Board members where they share experiences.

The schnitzel dinner, which costs $10 per plate, is one of the student exchange program’s fundraisers.

“We would love for everyone to order online and enjoy a fantastic German schnitzel dinner,” Himstedt-Gilbert said. “We typically get wonderful support from the community, so are hoping it continues, in spite of the changes that COVID has caused.”

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