Scottsdale receives Sister Cities award for digital transition during COVID-19

Posted 12/6/21

Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, Scottsdale Sister Cities Association prioritized keeping in touch with municipalities around the world.

Donna Hartz, president of Scottsdale Sister Cities …

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Scottsdale receives Sister Cities award for digital transition during COVID-19


Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, Scottsdale Sister Cities Association prioritized keeping in touch with municipalities around the world.

Donna Hartz, president of Scottsdale Sister Cities Association, gave thanks and gratefulness in a Nov. 16 Scottsdale City Council meeting, where she described the impact the pandemic has had on the organization.

“We had a student group down in Alamos, Mexico, and another in Marrakesh, Morocco, in early March. Then COVID hit,” Hartz told the City Council.

They managed to get everyone home safe and healthy, but it became evident that things would have to get canceled — members, student exchanges, etc.

Zoom was a must for keeping in touch with sister cities and their leaders, Hartz explained.

As a result of the 2020 programmings, the SSCA was awarded the 2021 Best Overall Program from Sister Cities International; this is the highest award that the nonpartisan 501(c)(3) organization can bestow.

David Ortega, Scottsdale mayor, accepted the award at the meeting.

“Thank you very much. You know, Scottsdale is so hospitable to our international visitors, and we travel as citizens and residents of Scottsdale and Arizona and enjoy the pleasure of worldwide travel,” Ortega said.

Sister Cities is under contract with the city of Scottsdale to promote Scottsdale’s sister cities’ relationships. Sister Cities promote peace through mutual respect, understanding, and cooperation — one individual, one community at a time.

President Eisenhower established this organization in 1956.

The SSCA mission promotes the city of Scottsdale and the Scottsdale Sister Cities Association as ambassadors of international friendship and goodwill. The mission is accomplished through student, educational, cultural, and economic development exchanges creating long-term global relationships.

Scottsdale Sister Cities, according to Hartz, has an all-volunteer board of directors of “enthusiastic supporters,” and they work for the entire community’s benefit.

The citizen-to-citizen diplomacy student ambassadorship efforts began in Scottsdale in late 1969, with Alamos Sonora, Mexico. Hartz says it remains the most active sister city with a wide variety of exchanges.

The second is Cairns in Queensland, Australia, which was proclaimed in 1987 — it’s the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef. They will be celebrating 2022, the 35th anniversary of their partnership. They are in the planning stages to figure out how the two cities are to celebrate this, Hartz explained.

Kingston, Ontario, Canada, is the third sister city, proclaimed in 1994. They currently have a student art exhibit in their 10th center in Kingston. They have an active French pen pal program with several schools, and they are working with enthusiastic partners to develop ways to broaden their relations.

Interlaken Switzerland is Scottsdale’s fourth sister city, proclaimed in 1999. The cornerstone of their relationship has been membership official visits and over 20 years of student exchanges.

Haikou, China, is the fifth sister city of Scottsdale, proclaimed in 2010.

Unfortunately, the relationship has become quiet in the last few years, which has those in Scottsdale looking to get that rekindled, Hartz explained.

Marrakech, Morocco is the sixth sister city; the relationship was signed in 2011.

In 2014 Scottsdale’s sister city shifted its focus away from well-known tourist destinations and proclaimed a new proclamation with Uasin Gishu, a high-altitude cultural area.

The eighth sister city is Killarney, Ireland that was made a sister city in 2020; they had been a friendship city for half a dozen years.

“My husband and I have been to seven of the eight of our sister cities, so it’s been a tremendous opportunity to do that,” Hartz said during the presentation to City Council.

2020 proved to be a challenging year for the SSCA; they were well on their way to having a very productive year. They had visitors in from Killarney and Alamos and they had a membership to Alamos.

Sister Cities encourage a citizen-to-citizen diplomacy student ambassadorship with:

  • Student exchanges
  • Health exchanges
  • Cultural exchanges
  • Sports exchanges
  • Art exchanges
  • Economic development initiatives
  • Philanthropic support
  • Member trips
  • Public safety support.

Editor's Note: Gianna Montiel is a student reporter at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications. 


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