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We are the Generation of Change

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

business cards.


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

diplomacy.


Michal Suchanek July 23, 2019


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