Words from a Sestri Levante Councilmember

Luca Ciotoli is a city council member in Sestri and was instrumental in working on the Italian side for a successful exchange this year. This is the first homestay youth exchange between Santa Cruz and Sestri Levante in about 30 years, and we are looking forward to supporting continued Sister Cities exchanges. Santa Cruz and the greater Sestri Levante community have historical ties, as fishing families from Sestri Levante and nearby Riva Trigoso settled in Santa Cruz in the early 20th century.  After the completion of the exchange, Luca wrote:

“The first edition of the Y.A.S. scholarship, a cultural exchange project organized by the municipality of Sestri Levante in collaboration with the community of Santa Cruz, has just ended.
“Giovanni and Elisa, winners of the scholarship, have thus transformed the migration route of our ancestors into a journey of education and knowledge.
“A heartfelt thanks to all those who collaborated on the project, from the community of Santa Cruz to all the people and associations in our area who welcomed the boys of the exchange with a warmth that we find hard to imagine.”

Thank you, Luca, and thank you to all of our donors who helped make this happen!


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Meet Our 2019 Scholarship Recipients!

Two scholarship recipients, along with a very special ambassador, will be hosting youth from our Italian Sister City of Sestri Levante this summer for three weeks before returning to stay with the Italian families in Sestri Levante for three weeks.

Hannah (center) participated in DeLaveaga Elementary School’s dual immersion Spanish program growing up.  During middle school, she raised money with her Girl Scout troop to travel to Costa Rica, where they planted trees, delivered school supplies, and had the opportunity to meet young Costa Rican students.  As a high schooler, Hannah developed a strong interest in computer science with a special interest in coding and programming video games.  She hopes to inspire more girls to enter the field of coding and programming, and aspires to create video games that incorporate problem solving and exposure to other cultures.  Hannah co-founded a group in her high school which teaches girls how to advocate for themselves, and she is an avid athlete, especially as a basketball player.

Callie (right) has lived in and traveled to several states within the U.S. This has given her a perspective on different ways of life right here in our own country.  Callie has a special interest in how we address social issues, and impressed us with her background in volunteering.  She has participated in volunteer projects through her church and is the treasurer of her high school’s Interact club, which teaches leadership skills and the concept of “service above self” to youth.  Callie is learning about the social and economic challenges facing our own community, and would like to learn how other communities around the world address similar challenges.  Callie has studied three years of Spanish, swims, plays water polo, and is a poet.

Mitchell (left) is not a scholarship recipient, but will be traveling as part of the delegation as a special ambassador  – he is Gralen’s nephew, and it is a rare and wonderful opportunity to be able to have one of Gralen’s family members participate in a cultural exchange in her honor.  Mitchell has studied Spanish for three years, has traveled to Mexico several times, and is a past Sister Cities Youth Delegate to Shingu, Japan, where he stayed in the home of a Japanese family.  He has a keenness for fishing, and would like to explore the historical connections between the fishing communities of Santa Cruz and Sestri Levante, as well as compare their techniques and traditions.  In addition to fishing, Mitchell enjoys computers and skateboarding.

We are delighted to know Santa Cruz includes such outstanding young community members who will be representing us internationally!

April is our Annual Birthday Month Fundraising Drive – will you consider a donation to help us continue offering opportunities to potential young ambassadors?  Click the link below!

No donation is too small, and your thoughtfulness and generosity is appreciated.  The 22281925_328248074304748_8588069985700179843_nWilson family is offering a special donation incentive – donations of $100 or more will receive a bottle of Gralen’s Grace Syrah Rosé from Wilson Family Vineyards.

Donations to the Gralen Eidam Wilson Youth Ambassador Scholarship Fund go directly to helping awarded youth travel and represent Santa Cruz abroad.  Awards may also go to youth in our Sister Cities overseas to encourage international visitors to come to Santa Cruz in our effort to continue fostering global connections and awareness.  All donations are tax deductible as part of the Santa Cruz Sister Cities Support group programs.  Santa Cruz Sister Cities Support is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization (Tax ID #770575231).

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Please be sure to type “Gralen Eidam Wilson Scholarship” in the special instructions field!

Annual Birthday Month Fundraising Drive Begins!

Gralens’ birthday month is here again , and again we are inviting donations to our scholarship fund to be made in her honor.

Last year’s scholarship recipients, Thea and Emily, who represented Santa Cruz in Shingu, Japan, and hosted incoming Japanese students in their homes.

Last year we were able to send two wonderful youth delegates to Shingu, Japan, and this year we are sending two amazing delegates to Sestri Levante, Italy. (Just wait until you meet them next week!)


22281925_328248074304748_8588069985700179843_nDonations in any amount are very much appreciated – $5, $10, $25 all add up!  Like last year, we’ll be offering a special incentive. In honor of Gralen’s birthday, from now through April 30, for donations of $100 or more we will send you a bottle of Gralen’s Grace Syrah Rosé from Wilson Family Vineyards, in appreciation of your generous support! 

All donations are tax deductible as part of the Santa Cruz Sister Cities Support group programs.  Santa Cruz Sister Cities Support is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization (Tax ID #770575231).

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Please be sure to type “Gralen Eidam Wilson Scholarship” in the special instructions field!

(In case you haven’t guessed, Gralen’s favorite colors were magenta and bright orange…!)


Scholarship Recipients Selected!

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More information and an introduction to come soon!

We had several outstanding candidates, every one of them with impressive qualities that made us appreciate what fantastic young people we have in our community!

New Scholarship Will Be Available in January for a 2019 Summer Exchange to Sestri Levante, Italy!

Plans are underway for a summer 2019 homestay exchange with Sestri Levante, Italy, and the Gralen Eidam Wilson Youth Ambassador Scholarship Fund will be looking for local juniors or seniors in high school to award with a travel scholarship. Applications will be delivered to local high schools the first week of January, and will also be available to download from this site. Stay tuned!

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Sestri Levante, Italy

Shingu Delegates/Scholarship Recipients Share Their Experiences

Our first scholarship recipients, Emily and Thea, returned from Shingu on July 26 and have been spending the past two weeks with the incoming student delegation from Japan.  These were the youth from the families in Japan that hosted the girls, coming to Santa Cruz as part of an established exchange program with the Shingu subcommittee of the Sister Cities Committee.  Clearly, they all became great friends during this exchange! In Santa Cruz, the Japanese students also were able to experience family life in Santa Cruz, hosted by local families (including Emily and Thea’s families), and the Shingu subcommittee members had planned a full schedule of fun experiences for them.

Tonight at the farewell party for the Japanese students, Thea and Emily made a presentation of their scholarship project, which was comparing daily life in Shingu with daily life in Santa Cruz with slideshow and a photo album project.


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Emily and Thea got to visit historical shrines, beautiful landmarks, a fan festival, learn about traditional Japanese tea ceremonies, and even attend high school with their Japanese friends.  They raved about the Japanese food, and both agreed that the best part of the whole trip were the wonderful families that welcomed the two girls into their homes.


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Congratulations to our scholarship recipients for a great experience in citizen diplomacy, and thank you to our donors for giving them this opportunity!

New Friends!

From a Youth Ambassador in Shingu

Our first scholarship recipients left for Shingu on July 3 and return on July 26!  I thought our donors would enjoy reading this message we received last week from one of the girls, Emily…

I want to thank the committee greatly for this experience, and let you know that Thea and I are incredibly happy with how our stay in Shingu has begun! Our host families are beyond kind towards us, and I am glad to be with them! The students and population of Shingu as a whole have treated us with the upmost respect, and I am incredibly grateful! Thea and I have already begun to form our project and will be working on it more intensely as the days go by. Again, thank you greatly for this experience and I will forever be in debt to your kindness.

Our scholarship recipients, Thea and Emily.


Your donations at work!  Thanks, and look for updates about future scholarships!