Sister Cities: Friedrichshafen, Baden-Württemberg and Peoria, Illinois


Friedrichshafen, © Peoria-Club Friedrichshafen e.V.

21.05.2019 - Article

Forty Years of Student Exchange with Peoria

On June 29, 1978, a group of students from Peoria visited the city of Friedrichshafen as part of the People-to-High-School-Student-Ambassador program. This was the beginning of a long-lasting student exchange between the twin cities Peoria and Friedrichshafen. On September 19 of the same year, young people (students, trainees) from Friedrichshafen paid a return visit to Peoria. This makes the student exchange between Peoria and Friedrichshafen one of the longest lasting student exchanges between the United States and Germany, alongside the St. Georg-Gymnasium in Bocholt, North Rhine-Westphalia, which had its first exchange on April 25, 1978 with Canton, Massachusetts.

The partnership is an incredible achievement based primarily on the relations and support of respective city leaders. In the early days, Dick Carver, James Maloof and Max Grünbeck are particularly worthy of mention. This would never have been possible without the drive and inventiveness of respective club presidents and supervisors. Club presidents who had a lasting influence on student exchanges include Karen Robb and Eric Hoadley of Peoria and Willi Huster on the German side. The partnership’s long list of supporters includes Helga and Siegfried Stauber (12 years), Iris and Joachim Seliger (9 years), Karen and Farrel Robb (6 years), Susanne and Heinz Ewald (6 years), Theresa and Eric Hoadley (5 years old), and Tammie and Patrick Roesler (5 years old).

A student exchange lives first and foremost through the participants. Friendships developed through mutual visits – for which the great distance was never an obstacle – to write letters, send emails, Skype, arrange meetings and much more. In this way, youths from both cities have come to know and understand the other culture and people better. Even now, it is still not too difficult to entice young people in Friedrichshafen to take a trip to the USA. In recent years, the travel group has almost always been made up of 20 students and two chaperones. In Peoria, the allure of a trip to Europe is also strong, but economic constraints have caused the number of participants in 2018 to drop to nine students and three chaperones. However, Peoria’s financial support is not comparable to the subsidy provided by the city of Friedrichshafen for its participants

For many years, the program in Peoria included visits to the Wildlife Prairie Park, the zoo, the Caterpillar Visitor Center and the Riverfront Museum, Peoria Chiefs games in the baseball stadium, a rally, or a beach party on Lake Bloomington at the Oberlander family residence. Highlights of the annual alternating visits have included visiting the mayor at City Hall, trips to Chicago, New Salem, and Springfield, the capital of Illinois and home of Abraham Lincoln.

The student and youth exchange currently receives great support from the two mayors, Jim Ardis of Peoria and Andreas Brand of Friedrichshafen, as well as Peter Gerstmann, CEO of Zeppelin. Thank you very much for that! The current supervisors are Lukas Schenk and Franziska Thelemann. The guest side will be represented by Danielle and Kevin Robb.

The Friends of Friedrichshafen in Peoria are currently led by Patrick Roesler (President) and Perry Johnson (Second VP). The Peoria Club Friedrichshafen is headed by Joachim Seliger (1st Chairman) and Karin Seckinger (2nd Chairman).

Original German-language text provided by:
Joachim Seliger
1st Chairman Peoria Club

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