Updated: Sep 16, 2019
Written by Michal Suchenak
My Life Changing Experience - Sister Cities International Youth Leadership Summit (YLS) - July 16 - 20, 2019
After my visit in Poland, I had a few days rest until my flight to Houston, Texas. There, I was going to be attending the Sister Cities International Conference, Youth Leadership Summit, that was going to teach me about Sister Cities International, diplomacy, and prepare me for a career in leadership later in my life. I wanted to thank Mrs. Carol Carroll, President of Fountain Hills Sister Cities, for accompanying me and Fountain Hills Sister Cities for providing me with the Leadership Scholarship and the opportunity to go the YLS.
The Summit began with every student signing in to their dorms. I had no idea that
students all the way from China, Pakistan, and Ecuador would be joining us, and the thought of having so many people from so many different countries in one place amazed me. President of Sister Cities, Roger-Mark De Souza gave us an exceptional talk about how we are the generation of change. We were soon joined by many guest speakers, notably by Dr. Camille Wardrop Alleyne, a rocket scientist and humanitarian from Trinidad and Tobago, Tom Kolditz, the Founding Director of the Ann and John Doerr Institute for New Leaders at Rice University, and Ron Nirenberg, the mayor of San Antonio.
We celebrated the culture and history of Japan in the second day of YLS. Japanese
drummers performed a Taiko drum routine, a popular art in Japanese culture. Since time
was short, we were quickly divided into groups based on our “tracks”. Students were
able to choose which track they wanted to go on, where we would be networking with
experts on each topic. The topics included S.T.E.M., filmmaking, SLAM poetry,
entrepreneurship, and diplomacy, the one I attended. In our diplomacy track, we were
each given a role of a developed or developing countries, and had to create an allinclusive
compromise to the problem of climate change. Although I was happy to work
with my teammates on this topic, time was of the essence, as the organizers of YLS had
other plans for me.
As I was working in a table with my group, one of the organizers took me out to the hall
and asked how I felt about being a diplomat. Because of my hard work and dedication in
the Summit, I was given the option to speak after George Bush, the former president, at
the Sister Cities Annual Conference at the Marriott Hotel in downtown Houston. Barely
being able to contain my excitement, I happily accepted the opportunity.
My speech was short and concise, but it still had to pass a few security checks and proof
readings before it could be declared official. I had a few days until my speech, and I
returned to my duties at the YLS. Again, I was tasked with a select group of students of
attending the Annual Conference and interviewing diplomats and high-ranking SCI
officials. We did just that, and brought home many business cards and information.
The time for my speech came, we donned our suits, and I along with a student from
Ecuador and another student from Houston dropped in to hear President Bush’s “Fireside
Chat” with SCI President Mark De Souza. After the chat, we had an exquisite dinner, and
presented our speeches. Although we talked for only a few minutes, we were greeted
with applause from the audience, took many pictures together, and took home even more
The very next day, everyone was getting packed up to go home, and I had to bid
goodbye to all of my new friends from Houston, Ecuador, and China. The contacts and
friendships that I made in Houston provided me with a tremendous amount of
opportunities. I am very grateful to have attended the YLS, as well as the SCI conference.
I believe that the more manpower and resources that Sister Cities receives, we can come
immeasurably closer to attaining eventual world peace through people-to-people citizen
Michal Suchanek July 23, 2019