Nachikatsuura-area high school students are recognized by Monterey Park city officials. First row, from left: Lila Izumi, former mayor Francisco Alonso, City Councilmember Yvonne Yu, exchange students Yuuka Shibahara and Fuuna Kotani, former exchange student Kaylie Chuman, Mayor Jose Sanchez. Second row, from left: David Ikeda, Sandy Hidalgo, City Councilmember Vinh Ngo, Hana Fisher, Mutsumi Lloyd, Kathy Chuman, Ami Lloyd. Third row: Former exchange student Yuumi Lloyd, Mike Lloyd.

MONTEREY PARK — In 1968, Monterey Park community members Terry and Ryoko Suzuki helped to establish the Monterey Park-Nachikatsuura Sister City Association. Since then, high school students from the City of Monterey Park or Nachikatsuura Town have been selected as student ambassadors to represent sister cities in alternating years.

The student exchange provides an opportunity to strengthen the goodwill between sister cities and provides youth an opportunity to learn and understand the customs and cultures of other countries. President Dwight Eisenhower established what he referred to as the “people-to-people” program in 1956. Today there are more than 2,100 sister city affiliations in 121 countries around the world.

Last year marked the 55th anniversary of the Monterey Park-Nachikatsuura sister-city relationship. Due to COVID, the last exchange occurred in 2019. This year, the association hosted two Nachikatsuura-area high school students, Yuuka Shibahara (16) and Fuuna Kotani (15).

During their 11-day trip, the students visited many Southland locales and got a taste of life, culture and local food, including carne asada tacos and La La Land hot dogs from Pink’s. They were especially excited to see Shohei Ohtani’s home run at Angel Stadium.

They also experienced a sense of home when they attended the Wakayama Kenjinkai picnic and danced in the Bon Odori at Higashi Honganji’s Obon Festival.

Their homestays were hosted by 2019 student exchange families Kathy, Rick and Kaylie Chuman and Mutsumi, Mike and Yuumi Lloyd.

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