ANNE EICKSTADT PHOTOS Belvidere Republican
The winning artwork for the Sister Cities Youth Art Competition 2022 with Forst Place winner Valeria Walters, Third Place Haylie Sweenie, and Sister Cities past president Brad Peters. (Second Place Kris Lucas Vandenei was not present for the event.)

By Anne Eickstadt

21 entries from high school and middle school youth were submitted to the Sister Cities Youth Art Competition this year. Winners were announces on Saturday, March 26 at the Boone County Museum of History.

The theme was Generation Rescue: Sustainable Water for All. The students entered their artwork along with an explanation of what they depicted and why they chose it. The judges examined everything carefully to make their decision on which piece of art would be sent on to represent Belvidere at the national and international levels.

The top three winners were: Valeria Walters, Kris Lucas Vandenei, and Haley, Sweenie.

First Place winner Valeria Walters of Caledonia wrote, “Worldwide clean freshwater sustainability involves all people and cultures in order to become a possibility. In my work, the hands, who represent people from all cultures, works, and walks of life, come together to fight against pollution and contaminated water. When people overcome their differences, they can work together to develop solutions to save people and allow for a new generation of healthier and stronger children. The clean water funnels from hand to hand to eventually reach the newer and healthier generation, where they can continue to provide fresh and clean water sustainability to their communities.”Her art was entitled “United Palms.” “I asked my classmates if I could use their hands,” Valeria said.

 Sister Cities Association of Belvidere is a chapter of Sister Cities International, which is headquartered in Washington, D.C. Sister Cities is a national non-profit organization of U.S. communities linked globally with similar communities to promote lasting friendship through a variety of programs.

Affiliations between cities throughout the world began after World War II when President Dwight D. Eisenhower proposed the People-to-People concept in 1956. His idea was to involve people and community organizations in personal diplomacy. Out of this grew Sister Cities International, which is now represented in all 50 states in the United States, the District of Columbia, and five U.S. territories. It has helped over 700 U.S. communities partner with 1,800 international locations in 134 countries around the world, providing thousands with the opportunity to experience and explore different cultures.

Sister Cities aims to promote peace through mutual respect, understanding, and cooperation — one individual, one community at a time. Sister Cities International is a non-profit citizen diplomacy network that creates and strengthens partnerships between U.S. and international communities. As an international membership organization, they officially certify, represent, and support partnerships between U.S. cities, counties, states and similar jurisdictions in other countries.

In 1988, the Sister Cities Association of Belvidere, Illinois, Inc. was formed as a not-for-profit corporation. In that year, Schwieberdingen, Germany became Belvidere’s first sister city.

Since 1988 Sister Cities Association of Belvidere has worked to foster enriching relationships with fellow cities abroad. Belvidere’s first sister city was Schwieberdingen, Germany and Vaux-le-Pénil, France. They are considering adding yet another city to their sister cities.

Schwieberdingen is a rapidly growing city of about 10,700 inhabitants located in Southwest Germany. The city founded in 1304 is 10 km away from Ludwigsburg and 14 km away from Stuttgart, the capital of Baden-Württemberg. Many visits, home-stays, and exchanges have been made between our two cities. Those visits have included mayors, city council members, music groups, youth exchanges, and individual travelers.

In 1999, Vaux-le-Pénil became Belvidere’s second sister city. Vaux-le-Pénil is a French commune located in the Seine-et-Marne département, in the Île-de-France region, situated about 45 miles southeast of Paris. As of the 1999 census, the town has a population of 10,688. Belvidere has welcomed many visitors from Vaux-le-Pénil with oth adult and youth exchanges taking place in both direction.

Belvidere’s connection with Vaux-le-Pénil and Schwieberdingen is unique in that, not only is Belvidere sister cities with each of them but, since 1990, they have been sister cities with each other as well. It has become a true tri-city relationship.

For two weeks each summer, four Boone County teenagers experience life in one of our sister cities through participation in the youth exchange home stay program. In a reciprocal arrangement, four teenagers from Belvidere’s sister cities are then welcomed back into our community to experience life here. The three flags flying on the corner by the Boone County Museum of History represent the three Sister Cities.

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