It started with just one trip.
Tallwood High School junior Emily Myers was going to take part in a special trip to Miyazaki, Japan as part of a special Sister Cities trip with the musical department of the Governor’s School for the Arts.
She would spend three weeks traveling the country of Japan, performing with classmates and staying with three different host families during her time there.
“It was incredible,” Myers said. “I stayed with host families. I went to schools and we interacted with the students and we really got to know a lot of them. It was amazing. I really felt strongly about people-to-people connections after that.”
Coming home, Myers was struck by what a meaningful opportunity she was given.
“When you meet people from other countries personally, the power that that creates is amazing,” Myers said.
Myers has always been fascinated with learning more about world cultures, and had been accepted to the Tallwood’s Global Studies and World Languages Academy. However, her trip to Japan showed her many things she could not learn in the classroom alone.
“It’s really sparked my global knowledge and my respect for other cultures,” she said.
Back at school, Myers shared her experiences and the insight she gained from her trip with her academy coordinator, Rebecca Gurley. Seeing her enthusiasm, Gurley recommended Myers apply to be the Sister Cities student ambassador.
Myers threw her hat in the ring, and, after an interview with the panel, was named the 2018 Sister Cities Youth Ambassador.
“I talk about my trip and I talk about the significance of the Sister Cities,” Myers said. “I share the first-hand experience of what the sister cities can do so we can gain more support.”
For Myers, this distinction is not just an honor, it’s a passion.
“This is the perfect opportunity for me,” Myers said. “I really believe that Sister Cities if it spread everywhere, peace would be possible. When I met the Japanese people, I realized how incredibly kind and warm and accepting they are. I realized I learned so much about peace.”
Throughout the year, Myers will travel to Sister Cities events and share her story. In fact, she just performed at the annual Cherry Blossom festival.
As youth ambassador, Myers encourages her fellow peers and classmates to make the most of all of the local cultural opportunities that are available – whether that is a trip across the world, or just down the street.
“If they can go on an (international) trip, it’s a priceless, life-changing experience,” Myers said. “I also got to learn about even more culture here (at festivals held locally). I felt really connected and inspired by what I saw.”
For more information about the sister cities, visit vbgov.com.