Red Mountain junior to represent Mesa in New Zealand
May 10, 2018
By Carson Mlnarik
Red Mountain High School junior Ryan Coats will travel to New Zealand this summer as part of Mesa’s Sister Cities program.
“I still can’t believe it,” he said. “I’m just really excited for all the opportunities and experiences this is going to give me.”
The program sends Mesa youth ambassadors to cities worldwide each summer to build international friendships and foster understanding and cooperation.
Coats will head to Upper Hutt, New Zealand, at the end of May for three weeks.
The Sister Cities movement became a national effort when President Dwight D. Eisenhower proposed the People to People program at a White House conference in 1956. Today more than 2,700 U.S. cities in all 50 states are linked with cities in 150 countries. For more than a half a century, the Sister Cities program has broadened its area of focus from educational and cultural exchanges to include technical assistance, trade and economic development.
Mesa joined the Sister City movement in 1981 with the creation of the Mesa Sister Cities Association. As a nonprofit organization, MSCA signed its first Sister City charter with Guaymas, Sonora, Mexico in 1981. Upper Hutt, New Zealand, followed in 1983, as did Caraz, Peru in 1989; Kaiping, China, in 1993; and Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada, in 1999.
The program won’t stop with Coats’ trip. When he returns, a member of the host family will visit Mesa to have a similar experience.
The youth ambassadors will meet Mayor John Giles and learn about the city of Mesa. They will also experience the Grand Canyon, Disneyland, a day at the beach, and a Diamondbacks game. The group will volunteer and take part in a community service project at a local food bank.
As an ambassador in Upper Hutt, which has 40,000 residents, Coats will experience daily life, meet the governor and other city officials, and catch rays on scenic beaches.
This will be Coats’ first intercontinental journey.
“I’ve always wanted to travel,” he said with a laugh. “This is kind of geeky, but when I’m bored in classes, I’ll look up like, ‘How much is it to go to Greece,’ and stuff like that.”
At Red Mountain, Coats is involved in varsity swim, and clubs like the National Honor Society and Link Crew, a peer mentorship program. He’s also obtaining his private pilot license as an aviation explorer at Falcon Field.
The unknown is unsettling to some people, but Coats finds it energizing.
“I’m (most) excited to learn the culture and grow with someone I’ve never met before and their family,” he said.
After both parts of the program are complete, Coats and the other ambassadors will continue to give back to Mesa with service, city projects and fundraisers.
For information on the program or to follow Coats and the other ambassadors’ journeys, visit mesasistercities.org.
Other student ambassadors are:
Echo Selman from AAEC Red Mountain, who will travel to Upper Hutt, New Zealand, with Coats.
Charlie Boyle and Nic Guerrero, both of Westwood High School, and Sydney Brown of Heritage Academy will visit Guaymas, Mexico.
Matthew Halfmann of Seton Catholic High School and Kylie Hunts-in-Winter of Arizona Connections Academy are heading to Kaiping, China.
Ellie Yar of AAEC Red Mountain will spend time in Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada
Mckay Osborne of Heritage Academy, and Tara Ruhland of Westwood will head to Caraz, Peru.