Mesa students to be ambassadors to 5 sister cities

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(Source: Mesa (Source: Mesa
MESA, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -

The mission of the Mesa Sister Cities program is simple but far-reaching.

The goal is "[t]o promote peace through mutual understanding, mutual cooperation and mutual respect for various cultures," Gerry Paulas, the program's vice president, explained.

"[I'm] very fortunate to be able to do this and be a part of the program,"  Tara Ruland.

She is one of 10 teens chosen to be ambassadors for Mesa. She will travel to Caraz, Peru, one of Mesa's five sister cities.

[MAP: Mesa Sister Cities]

"[I want to] represent our city, our state, but, more importantly, to just be myself," Tara said.

"It's gonna be amazing -- an amazing experience --  and gonna be life-changing," said Echo Selman.

Echo, along with Ryan Coats, is an ambassador headed to Upper Hutt, New Zealand. Their path to being chosen started back in October.

"[I had to ] fill out an application and then submit an art project for [the] art of diplomacy and then [I was] called into an interview," Ryan explained.

The selection committee takes a variety of things into account.

"We look at extracurricular activities, what is their GPA, why do they want to go, and then we bring them along on some community service outing to see how they represent themselves and work with others," said Paulus.

For the first time in the program's history, two students are traveling to China. Kylie Hunts-in-Winter and Matthew Halfman will visit Kaiping.

They have quite a bit of preparation to do.

"Prior to going, learning the language for sure and some history about the city and some basics," Matthew said.

"As an ambassador, you get to more share your own cultural; instead of me learning about theirs, I can teach them about America," Kylie said.

Others ambassadors have already left for Burnaby, Canada and Guaymas, Sonora, Mexico.

The students will spend three weeks abroad and get to meet with the mayors and local leaders of the cities they are in, see historical sights and do community service projects -- all with one goal in mind, fostering peace between the sister cities.

"These really are the cream of the crop from Mesa and will do a great job representing our city and international program," Paulus said.

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Ashlee DeMartino
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