City kids join others at youth festival

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Most Alexandria teenagers spent the last two weeks of their summer vacation hanging out, having fun and trying not to think about the beginning of school. Six students, however, were ambassadors representing Alexandria in Dundee, Scotland, at a Y

outh Festival.

The festival began years ago by Dundees Lord Provost, John Letford. The idea was to invite young people from Dundees four Sister Cities to come to Scotland, get to know each other and talk about their differences and similarities. Dundees Sister Cities are Vertsburg, Germany; Orleans, France; Napolis, Palestine and Alexandria. Altogether, 40 teens attended this years festival.

Nick Wilson is a senior at T.C. Williams High School and was a member of Alexandrias delegation. To be selected, students wrote essays about why they should represent Alexandria and what they hoped to gain from the experience.
Ive participated in exchanges before and felt that those experiences prepared me for this trip, Nick said. Nick has been to Germany and Austria on summer trips in the past.

Linzi Burstein, a junior at T.C., had never participated in a foreign exchange program but felt she brought other qualifications to the table. I have been involved in sports and lots of other youth activities in Alexandria most of my life and I thought those activities would help me represent Alexandria and T.C. on this trip, she said.According to Mayor William Euille, all of Alexandrias teens did a great job. They were just wonderful ambassadors, Euille said. Every time we saw the kids they were surrounded by kids from other delegations. I know I may be biased, but I think our kids were the most popular because they were all so outgoing and so accepting of everyone else.

Same concerns
There were icebreaker sessions where the young people learned each others names and sessions where they shared their similarities and differences. We really learned that the things that concern us in Alexandria, in many ways, are the things that concern kids in all of the other countries except for the kids from Palestine. They are concerned with check points and war, Nick said.

The problem that the rest of us seemed to have in common was drunk driving. In Europe, you can drink legally at 16 and people drive very fast. That was the biggest problem we had in common.

Linzi agreed. We talked about drugs as well and there is some of that, of course, but drunk driving really seemed to be a concern for all of us, she said.

The group spent five days in Dundee and both Nick and Linzi would like to go back and plan to remain in contact with the other young people they met.

Re-establishing relationships
Before Euille and City Councilman Paul Smedberg joined the young people in Dundee, they stopped in Helsingborg, Sweden, another of Alexandrias Sister Cities. We hadnt sent a delegation there in many years and we want to re-establish our relationship with them, Euille said. We were very well received and have invited representatives from Helsingborg to come here.

Euille pointed out that Helsingborg is a seaport. We visited their waterfront and looked at their transportation system, Euille said. Also, we were very interested to learn that they have won a number of regional environmental awards for innovations they have instituted. I brought back a lot of ideas to share with my colleagues.

In Dundee, Euille and Smedberg joined the youth delegation and participated in a number of official as well as unofficial events. We hope that all of our Sister Cities will join us in December for our Scottish Christmas Walk [in Alexandria the first Saturday in December] and that we can formalize youth exchanges with everyone, Euille said.

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