Thanks to a collaboration between Laguna Beach Sister Cities Association and high school staff and French teacher Odile Dewar, 29 students and two chaperones put a personal face on a cultural exchange from our sister city Menton, France.
“French isn’t just a class anymore,” said high school sophomore and French student Anya Miller at a recent gathering to recap the four-day visit, which concluded last week. “It’s now a connection, a culture and a people.”
Miller’s classmate Kayla Baskevitch agreed, adding that since it’s so easy to get wrapped up in the cloistered world of social groups at school she “really enjoyed being reminded that high school isn’t all there is.”
The event-packed visit proved a milestone for the sister city program, established in 2008 and best known for its Fête de la Musique featuring street musicians. The French students’ sojourn here raises the bar for LBSCA’s upcoming projects, including the possibility of a new sister city, said president Karyn Philippsen.
With the help of Dewar, LBSCA now plans to send a group of Laguna students on a reciprocal visit to Menton and separately a Laguna artist.
Having solidified the Menton relationship, LBSCA is considering an alliance with another sibling city. “We’re always looking for that opportunity,” said Philippsen. A city in Russia, as Dewar also speaks Russian, is not out of the question.
Many people’s tireless efforts contributed to organizing the visit and its itineraries, Dewar said. Among them are Philippsen; LBSCA members and parents Jennifer and Fred Karam; school board members Betsy Jenkins, Theresa O’Hare and Ketta Brown; principal Joanne Culverhouse; and LBSCA member Michele Monda.
“Each part of the visit was very special in its own way, but the most magical moment for me was when the students finally met each other at LBHS and created a bond beyond language and culture,” said Dewar.