Youth Leadership Summit

Sister Cities International welcomes students ages 14-18 to participate in the 2017 Youth Leadership Summit at the 61st Annual Conference in Virginia Beach, VA from July 12-16!

The 2017 Youth Leadership Summit is designed to engage the next generation of leaders and introduce them to the world of international affairs. Through a specialized diplomatic simulation moderated by the U.S. Diplomacy Center, site visits, speaker sessions, and peer collaboration, participants will learn how different national interests drive international cooperation on critical issues. Over three days, the Youth Leadership Summit (YLS) will provide students with effective problem solving strategies, leadership skills, and insights into international affairs.

This year's theme for the diplomatic simulation is Crisis in our Oceans: Negotiating a Solution to Protect our Food. This hypothetical scenario focuses on the depleting fish population off the coast of the Federated States of Hiroot.  There are concerns that fish are being caught illegally. A Summit has been called by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, who has invited the governments of Federated States of Hiroot, Uzan, The United States and the non-governmental organization the WWF to discuss the situation.

Past YLS participants reported that they gained a newfound interest in international affairs and the role that U.S. cities play in this equation. Through YLS, Sister Cities International empowers young people to think globally, spurring a new generation of citizen diplomats who become instrumental in promoting peace, mutual respect, and prosperity.

Students will experience a taste of college life by lodging at the dorms at Virginia Wesleyan College. Chaperones will supervise the students throughout the Summit.

Registration for the 2017 Youth Leadership Summit is now closed.

Click here to see the 2017 Youth Leadership Summit Agenda.

Click here to download the 2017 Youth Leadership Summit flyer to share with students in your community.

Interested in chaperoning at YLS this year? Click here to download the 2017 Youth Leadership Summit Chaperone application. Applications are due by May 22, 2017.

Questions? Email Alyssa Fox at

2016 Youth Leadership Summit Recap

Day 1

Students take a photo with Ambassador Kenichirō Sasae and Mrs. Nobuko Sasae.

On Wednesday, July 13, students flew into Washington, DC from across the U.S. and globe to celebrate SCI’s largest Youth Leadership Summit yet with 115 participants in attendance. Delegates then checked in to the dorms at the George Washington University for a taste of college life.

That night, students kicked off the Summit with a reception at the Japanese Ambassador’s Residence where youth and adult conference attendees mingled, toured the beautiful Japanese gardens and tea house, ate delicious Japanese cuisine, and took photos with Japan’s Ambassador to the U.S. Ambassador Kenichirō Sasae and Mrs. Nobuko Sasae.

Day 2

Students visit the White House.

The group then split off to visit their pick of Washington, DC’s many Smithsonian museums on the National Mall, and finished the afternoon with a view of the White House.On Thursday, delegates visited the U.S. Capitol building and were one of the first groups to visit the recently restored dome. Students were also able to sit-in on sessions of congress and spot a few high profile representatives.

"Once again sister cities has produced an amazing experience for all of us youth ambassadors. It’s not every day that high schoolers get to travel to the capital of the United States and participate in such an amazing experience that gives us the confidence and passion to genuinely make a difference in this world," a student said about her experience.

Students march 130 flags around the Ronald Reagan Building’s Wilson Plaza during the Opening Ceremony’s Parade of Flags.

Day 3

On Friday, youth delegates participated in the Opening Ceremony as they acted as flag bearers for the Parade of Flags with flags from 130 different member cities across the globe.

The group then headed over to the law firm Hogan Lovells to take part in the U.S. Diplomacy Center’s diplomatic simulation. This year’s simulation focused on nuclear non-proliferation. Students learned about nuclear politics from senior scientist Mark Goodman of the International Security and Nonproliferation Bureau at the Department of State, then split into groups and assumed the roles of different actors in an international nuclear negotiation.

Students break into groups to take part in the U.S. Diplomacy Center’s diplomatic simulation.

Though tensions and stakes were high, all groups were able to work together to reach peaceful agreements.

"We learned how to take the initiative to make conversation, compromise, and strive toward peaceful resolution," a student said.

That night, the group celebrated their accomplishments at a Nationals baseball game.

Day 4

On their final day, the group attended the Annual Conference including the Breakfast Keynote Foreign Diplomatic Corps Panel with the Ambassadors of Malta, the Republic of Serbia, and Armenia. 

Students get ready to present their outcomes at the Final Simulation.

They also heard from elected officials from California and Texas and young professionals in Washington, DC who spoke to the importance of engaging younger generations with sister cities. Lastly, the youth attended the Keynote Luncheon with Secretary Norm Mineta.

"The panels were very inspiring and made me want to go back home with a plan to go out and help the communities around me," a student noted about her experience.

To close out the Conference, students presented what they had learned during the diplomatic simulation and reflected on their overall experiences during the Youth Leadership Summit.

Students present their outcomes and thoughts on the Summit as a whole.

Highlights from students:

"YLS was one of the BEST weeks of my life! I have met so many people that are working to achieve if not the same, than a similar goal as me. Speaking with them has opened my mind and shaped the way I think. This has been truly an AMAZING experience. 10/10, would recommend."

"Over the past four days I have met people from all over the country and we’ve become such great friends in such a short amount of time. This program introduces you to great inspiring leaders and expands your social network. It was an amazing experience."

Students dance it out at the end of the Summit!"Sister Cities International is the pinnacle of citizen efforts to engage in diplomacy. This organization allows the youth of tomorrow to experience elements of domestic government, foreign policy making, the art of diplomacy, and the cultures of our ever changing universe. I am honored to have been a part of this summit."

That night, students enjoyed dancing and dessert after the Lou Wozar Diplomatic Awards Ceremony to celebrate their new friendships and connections.

Click here to view all photos from the Youth Leadership Summit.

2015 Youth Leadership Summit Recap

Opening Ceremony

Over 60 high school students from the U.S. and China convened at the 59th Sister Cities International Annual Conference Youth Leadership Summit in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  As citizen diplomacy knows no age, the Summit is specifically designed to engage youth around the important role diplomacy plays in helping to create and maintain world peace. 

Thursday, July 16

The first day of the summit kicked off with a taste of college life as Student participants unpacked their luggage at the University of Minnesota (UMN) residence halls. 

Students with Gov. Ventura

After dining on campus, participants geared up for their first round of orientation activities where they learned about the history of Sister Cities International and the important role the institution has played in the history of diplomacy before engaging in fun ice breakers and global trivia. “I loved the college-like setting and how quickly we were all able to bond due to this,” said one student residing in the UMN dorms.

Friday, July 17

The students gathered for a city-wide kick off outside the beautiful Landscape of Orchestra Hall for and opening ceremony with Minnesota Mayor Hodges and parade of flags which represented over 120 countries. 

Discussions during simulation

After the opening ceremony, participants attended Annual Conference’s Keynote Luncheon where they were able to engage with and ask questions to the conference luncheon Keynote, Governor Jesse Venture, 38th Governor of Minnesota and Former Professional Wrestler.

The highlight of the summit for most was the unique opportunity to partake in a U.S. Department of State Diplomatic Simulation organized by the U.S. Diplomacy Center. The simulation was a real life situational experience where the youth participants each had a role to play in order to solve a real-world problem of helping aid a persecuted minority group. Stakeholders had to find common ground to prevent a further crisis and a public outcry against a “terrible” refugee situation. By participating in the simulation, delegates assumed the roles of diplomats and experienced firsthand the challenges and choices their roles offered. Students learned that diplomacy can bring great rewards but only with patience, perseverance and cooperation.

Discussions during simulation

“The simulation, of course, was the main opportunity to learn about diplomacy and challenge myself intellectually. It was unlike anything I had done in school, and it made me feel realize that progress really can be made if people are willing to communicate and be patient,” one student remarked. “The simulation was by far my favorite activity because it broke down barriers between everyone and it easily brought us all together by forcing us to work in teams and create agreeable solutions to the impending issue. The activity was exciting and challenging, which made it really enjoyable. Through the simulation I was able to get a better idea of how the Department of State works and I'm glad that I now have more knowledge on international affairs,” another student said.

City Welcome Reception

Following the simulation, the participants headed over to the scenic City of Minneapolis Welcome Reception at Nicollet Island Pavilion where they were treated to live entertainment by the cities diaspora groups and tasty food that the great city is famous for. 

Saturday, July 18

On Saturday morning, youth participants attended the conference itself which featured a Foreign Diplomatic Corps Panel with representatives from the State Department as well as several other countries.

Other highlights included a keynote presentation by Lufti Haziri, Mayor of Gjilan, Republic of Kosovo who was arrested and imprisoned under accusations by the Serb regime for leading Kosovo Liberation Army activities.

Breakfast Keynote

After international intervention on his behalf, he was released from prison and was eventually elected Mayor of Gjilan in 2000, thereby becoming the youngest mayor ever elected in Kosovo and Europe. Mr. Haziri explained to students that the way in which you deal with struggles and challenges defines who you are. He also said that bridging generations is key to building a prosperous future for ourselves and our communities. “Lufti Haziri's speech was engaging and inspiring, and I was able to learn more about the situation in Kosovo, of which I knew very little about,” said one student.

Final simulation

In the afternoon, youth participants attended the Annual Conference’s Keynote Luncheon remarks by Rudy Maxa, Host and Executive Producer of “Rudy Maxa’s World.” The students also had the opportunity to participate in cultural events held in conjunction with President Nelson Mandela International Day at the Sabathani Community Center. "I enjoyed the opportunities to interact, network, and connect with other youths as well as the chance to gain a better understanding of diplomacy," a student remarked.

The Summit culminated with a final simulation intended to explore possible solutions to the refugee crisis. Students presented final projects on the resolutions they proposed as well as what they learned about themselves and the intricacies of diplomacy. The final projects illustrated the importance of international cooperation in tackling some of our most pressing global challenges. 

Dancing after the annual awards

Following the final simulation, students attended the Lou Wozar Annual Awards Dinner and Ceremony where they witnessed firsthand the hard work and contributions that various sister city programs across the U.S. have accomplished. 

“I definitely plan on staying involved. I love dealing with international affairs and knowing about cities around the world in different countries, not just my own," said a student at the end of the Summit.

CLICK HERE to view photos from the 59th Annual Conference and Youth Leadership Summit. CLICK HERE to read a first-hand report and testimonial from the SoCal Sister Cities Youth Representative. 

2014 Youth Leadership Summit Recap

At the 58th Sister Cities International Annual Conference in San Jose, California, over 100 high school students from the United States, Germany, Japan, China, and South Korea participated in the Youth Leadership Summit. 

The Summit was designed to engage youth in the Sister Cities International network while exposing them to important international challenges focused on the theme, Water as a Shared Commodity. The educational G20 simulation provided students with a platform to learn about diplomacy, international relations, critical thinking, and teamwork. Throughout the weekend, students participated in various activities in addition to their classroom sessions.

Thursday, July 31

Non-local students were housed in the San Jose State University (SJSU) residence halls and were able to experience a taste of college life. After dining on campus, participants geared up for their first round of orientation activities. Students viewed the movie Water Wars, a documentary that uncovers critical water issues facing humanity. Following the film, students returned to the dorms for ice breakers and trivia. 

Friday, August 1

The youth represented Sister Cities International at the opening ceremony as flag bearers. Each student carried a flag from a different member community during the Parade of Flags.

Following the opening ceremony, students attended a special session; “Global Challenges of Water.” His Excellency Nigel Warren, Consul General of Australia, moderated the panel. Participants on the panel included The Honorable Mayor Masao Omari, City of Okayama, Japan, Cheryl K. Davis, Manager, Workforce Development Initiative Water Enterprise, San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, and John Tang, Director of Government Relations and Corporate Communications, San Jose Water Company. The panelists discussed various water issues in their respective communities and encouraged students to become innovative leaders in the field of international diplomacy. 

The students returned to SJSU to meet in their country and topic groups which provided them with exposure to a matrix type of simulation. Students were challenged to cooperate with ambassadors from other countries while keeping their own country’s interests in mind.  

After the classroom sessions, students joined general conference attendees at the Tech Museum of Innovation for the pre-concert reception. The participants also attended the MGM Inspiring Our World: A Musical Journey production and the Dionne Warwick Concert at the San Jose Center for Performing Arts. 

Saturday, August 2

Youth participants spent Saturday morning exploring the trails at the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge introduced students to resource management, conservation, and migration.   

Upon returning from the field trip, students attended the keynote luncheon Cisco’s Internet of Everything Presentation. Cisco defines the Internet of Everything (IoE) as bringing together people, process, data, and things to make networked connections more relevant and valuable than ever before-turning information into actions that create new capabilities, richer experiences, and unprecedented economic opportunity for business, individuals, and countries.  

Students spent the afternoon preparing their final presentations. They met in their topic groups to formulate and propose steadfast solutions to the various issues their group was faced with.

Prior to presenting their final projects, the students observed a sister city signing between Santa Clara, California and Limerick, Ireland. 

The Summit culminated with a simulation intended to explore possible solutions to the five critical water issues that students explored throughout the weekend. Students presented final projects on water and its importance in power struggles, public health, security, social change, and agriculture. The final projects illustrated the importance of international cooperation in tackling some of our most pressing global challenges. 

Following the final simulation, students attended the Lou Wozar Annual Awards Dinner and Ceremony where they witnessed firsthand the hard work and contributions that various sister city programs across the United States have accomplished. 

2013 Leadership Summit: A Recap

At the 2013 Sister Cities International Annual Conference in San Antonio, Texas, over 50 students from around the United States participated in the Sister Cities International Youth Leadership Summit.  The Summit was designed to engage youth in the Sister Cities International network while exposing them to important international challenges and the ways in which different national experiences drive international cooperation on critical issues. The Summit culminated with a simulation intended to explore possible solutions to the critical environmental issues they had been exploring throughout the weekend. The simulation illustrated both the challenges and importance of international cooperation in tackling some of our most pressing global challenges.

Featured Guests and Speakers

  • Mayor Julián Castro, City of San Antonio
  • His Excellency Dr. Dino Patti Djalal, Indonesia’s Ambassador to the United States
  • His Excellency Klaus-Jochen Guhlcke, Consul General of Germany in Houston
  • His Excellency Hideaki Mizukoshi, Minister and Head of Chancery, Embassy of Japan
  • His Excellency Jostein Mykletun, Consul General of Norway to Houston
  • His Excellency Alexander K. Zakharov, Consul General of Russia in Houston
  • Steve Diminuco, Deputy Director, Global Intergovernmental Affairs, US Department of State

Special Sessions

  • “A Conversation on Youth Activism and Engagement” with Ambassador Dr. Dino Patti Djalal, of Indonesia
  • “Entering the Shift Age” with David Houle, America’s Leading Futurist and Author
  • “Sports Diplomacy” with 2-time Paralympic Gold Medalist, Ross Davis and former US Foreign Service officers
  • “100,000 Strong Foundation” with Director Carola McGiffert
  • Tour of  the University of Texas at San Antonio, with international students, study abroad advisors and international programs faculty

Model United Nations Simulation

Students participated in an environmentally-focused Model United Nations simulation in which students debated different proposals and formed resolutions that required passage by each committee. The final session provided an opportunity for each country to present their resolutions to the crisis and defend their positions. The simulation allowed for negotiations, critiques, and compromises so that a mutually agreed upon decision could be produced. After the final session, prizes were awarded to best delegations and best overall delegate.

Country Groups

China - Germany - Japan - Kenya - Mexico - Norway - Russia - USA


  • Food Security – How can we avoid conflict and encourage cooperation to ultimately secure a sustainable water future?
  • Disaster management – Following a tsunami in Southeast Asia, delegates needed to evaluate current health related responses to natural disasters. What are some long-term projects to re-build and/or stabilize health facilities?
  • Climate change – What are some ways to foster cooperation between developing and developed countries and fix new emission goals?
  • Deforestation – How can the General Assembly encourage UN member states to stop and reverse deforestation instead of moving it from one country to another?

Youth Leadership Summit in the News!

San Antonio Express News, July 13, 2013: “Young people grapple with global issues”

Take Action

This year marks a pivotal moment during which Sister Cities International is celebrating 60 years of peace through people. Get involved in this momentous year.
More Information


As the world becomes smaller, and connections online become more frequent than face-to-face interactions, multicultural understanding at the community level is more important than ever. Sister Cities International enables citizen diplomats in communities across the world to develop relationships with communities in other countries that are based on cultural understanding and mutual cooperation.Donate