Students prepare for Sister City adventure

By Señora Chela Tapp-Kocks Amigo Club

Two Ashland High School juniors will travel in June to Guanajuato, Mexico, as official city of Ashland participants in the Sister City’s summer festivities.

The 17-year-old students, Brook Hall and Mumi Thiaw, will spend a week in Guanajuato, returning with the Guanajuato festival queen to Ashland in time to participate together in its Fourth of July celebrations. Students have been representing Ashland for 47 years at Guanajuato’s Festival of San Juan and La Presa.

Last year’s student ambassadors to Guanajuato, high school seniors Kate Joss-Bradley and Halle Lowe, joined Principal Erika Bare and other students in greeting Hall and Thiaw at a ceremony at the high school on March 6.

“You are going to fall in love with Guanajuato, and its people will love you for your giving hearts, enthusiasm and hard work,” Joss-Bradley told Hall and Thiaw at the ceremony.

Lowe said the Guanajuato visit offers “tremendous opportunities to meet the people of Guanajuato and to learn so much about the culture and history of our Sister City.”

“I’m so grateful to all the citizens of Ashland and Guanajuato for keeping alive a tradition that is headed for its 50th anniversary in two years,” she said.

Hall and Thiaw will be in Guanajuato June 13-25, returning just in time for Ashland’s Fourth of July. They will ride with the Guanajuato festival queen in the annual parade down Siskiyou Boulevard and through the heart of the business district.

Señora Chela Tapp-Kocks, a founder of formal relations between the two cities and their respective universities, Southern Oregon University and the University of Guanajuato, said she and high school Spanish teacher Carmen Adams have already offered a preliminary orientation to the students about Guanajuato culture, history, traditions, manners and customs.

The agenda for Hall and Thiaw will include presenting their song and dance routines before city and state officials, civic clubs and schools, as well as attending art and book exhibits, sporting events and concerts.

Tapp-Kocks will meet with the student representatives each week until June, coaching them to represent their own culture in the form of photographs, art, dance and song.

Hall, daughter of Lauren and David Hall of Ashland, has decided to share her operatic singing talents in Guanajuato.

“I was very excited to be selected and to receive the guidance of last year’s representatives,” she said. “I know that I stand on the shoulders of nearly 100 previous representatives and will do my best to add to the Sister City exchange tradition.”

Hall’s academic pursuits are genetics with emphasis on brain science.

Thiew, originally from Senegal, moved with her family to Ashland when she was 4 years old and has been educated here. She plans to become a marine biologist. She is the daughter of Alima Matejcek.

“I love to sing jazz,” with a small band, she said, and she looks forward to sharing American jazz with the people of Guanajuato.

“I feel honored and very enthusiastic about this opportunity to go to Guanajuato for the traditional exchange,” she said. “I will do my best to keep this Sister City tradition alive. I know that we will be directly representing our school and our city, but also indirectly representing our country as well. This is exciting and very challenging.”

— Amigo Club’s Entre Amigos (Between Friends) column about Ashland ties to its sister city Guanajuato, Mexico, appears on the third Tuesday of each month. Señora Chela Tapp-Kocks is a founder of the Ashland-Guanajuato Sister City relationship.

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