As it turns out, Phoenix isn’t the only city around with a Sister Cities Association – and a youth ambassador program.
Scottsdale is also on-board. Like Phoenix, it offers high school sophomores and juniors a chance to visit a sister city for three weeks. The Scottsdale program focuses this year just on Interlaken, Switzerland. So if you have dreams of Australia or Morocco, this might not be your year. The program has room for more than 100 students, according to the Scottsdale Sister Cities Association website. The deadline to apply is Oct. 25, which isn’t far away.
A few things occur to me about the Scottsdale Sister Cities Association:
- Its website is much cleaner than its Phoenix counterpart. I could read everything without certain bits being cut off or truncated in my Chrome browser.
- It needs to mix it up more. If you have sister cities in six contries, why only have student ambassadors go to one? Some students crave culture shock, to experience something far removed from their surroundings. And they may even have career aspirations that pull them toward Asia, Africa or the Middle East.
- It needs to use social media better. Eighty-five likes on Facebook (since January 2011) and no Twitter account tell me the organization isn’t dialed into social media yet. The Facebook posts need to be more engaging – and they should knock it off with the photos of people with their arms around each other looking into the camera. Get candid – show people interacting for real. Ask a question, share a cultural fact … anything to get your audience to interact. And really, not a word about the upcoming deadline Oct. 25 for the youth ambassador program?
- It seems participating students are doing a better job on social media. And it’s not just because their page has more likes. The recent posts give news about students leaving for exchange programs, updates on the ambassador programs, shout-outs to teachers who help the program and more (still could use photo help, but that’s true of many Facebook pages). It does a solid job of giving outsiders a view into the program and how it influences the lives of the students who get involved.
- It offers memberships, and I’d be tempted to get involved. But I really don’t know what my membership fee gets me. What are the benefits? If it’s a dressed-up way of saying “donation,” don’t be coy.
- Seek help from local travelers. If you want more and better applicants for the Youth Ambassador program, get some help from people who travel. There are plenty of local travel bloggers who’d love to get high school students fired up about travel.
So why do I bother mentioning this? Because I want programs like this to succeed. I am convinced that more students traveling will mean more exposure to new ideas and better understanding. Programs like this need to step up, to promote themselves better, to draw more and better applicants. Don’t take the criticism personally: Take it as a believer’s affirmation that what you do is important, and as an opportunity to strengthen your efforts.