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Sister Cities program gets top honor

Sister Cities International announced recently that Suffolk’s Sister Cities International program was the recipient of the Best Overall Program award for cities with a population between 50,001 and 100,000.

This is the second time Suffolk Sister Cities has won the prestigious award. In 2008, the organization won both the Best Overall Program award and the Innovation: Youth & Education award for cities in its population category.

“We are pleased to recognize Suffolk Sister Cities International for its outstanding achievements in citizen diplomacy in 2009,” said Patrick Madden, president and CEO of Sister Cities International in Washington, DC. “Our awardee programs demonstrate real impact in their own city and around the world.”

In 2009, Suffolk Sister Cities International raised more than $65,000 to send 34 band and chorus students — selected from all over the city because of their ability to play — to perform in its sister city, Suffolk, England.

Suffolk Sister Cities also participated in the Best Practice Showcase at the 2009 Sister Cities International Conference in Belfast, Northern Ireland, as a result of winning two awards in 2008.

The organization also hosted two delegations from Suffolk’s sister city in Oderzo, Italy, and supports an active teen group, Suffolk International Youth Association. The SIYA is open to youth, ages 14 to 18, from all four city high schools, and it meets regularly to promote cultural diversity and understanding.

Meeting a 2009 goal to solidify its infrastructure, Suffolk Sister Cities International elected 15 members to a new board of directors, held a retreat on strategic planning, and initiated an organizational structure incorporating board members and volunteers into several new committees, including a membership committee under which membership grew in number and diversity, members say.

Among other U.S. cities winning awards were Fort Worth, Texas, Spokane, Wash., Houston, Chicago, Sarasota, Fla., and Seattle, Wash.

Accepting the award from Suffolk were Mary Jane Naismith, president of SSCI; Caroline Martin, board member; Kevin Hughes, economic development director for the city of Suffolk; and youth conference delegates Jessica Brinkley and Haley Sims.

Sister Cities International promotes peace through mutual respect, understanding, and cooperation by focusing exchanges and public programs on sustainable and economic development, youth and education, arts and culture, and humanitarian assistance. More information about Sister Cities International can be found at www.sister-cities.org.

To become involved in Suffolk Sister Cities, call Mary Jane Naismith at 242-3476.