West Springfield Welcomes Second Sister City

Bella Carter

Some students might remember the project that our own Italian Language students did with students from Istituto Statale di Istruzione Superiore last year, which was broadcasted to the student body. If you don’t remember, or are a freshman, our Italian Language students worked with real Italian students to present a slideshow about culture in each other’s languages. This is the first that the high school student body was seeing the effects of a partnership between the City of West Springfield and the Valdarno region of Italy. This year, we took it a step further, and welcomed into town our first Italian exchange students. They were welcomed by Mayor Reichelt and Town Councilman Ed Sullivan at the Italian Cultural Center in Springfield, MA. It was the first real step toward the strong partnership we’d been working for.

The two townships worked with each other through the Sister City International (SCI) Network, a non-profit network founded by president Dwight Eisenhower with the purpose of utilizing civilian diplomats to unite citizens worldwide. This organization establishes sister cities to be long term partnerships between two communities in two countries; and a true partnership is exactly what we’re trying to achieve. There are exchanges in four main areas, those being youth and education, arts and culture, business and trade, and community development according to the SCI’s directory. We are seeing youth and education exchange through the exchange of students between West Springfield High School and Istituto Statale di Istruzione Superiore, San Giovanni Valdarno. According to Sullivan, the tentative plan going forward after the first successful reception of Italian students is to send Italian language students to Valdarno Italy in Spring 2023.

The question is, how are we going to see the other pillars of this partnership? Well, the roadmap is already in place. Valdarno is not West Springfield’s first sister city. In fact, we have a well established relationship and sisterhood with Dingle, Ireland. Creating a diplomatic alliance with Valdarno was a similar process to Dingle, which involved interviews and meetings with Italian officials. In an interview with Sullivan, we discussed how business is exchanged in several forms, including through the Dingle Pavilion at the Big E. Italian dignitaries are visiting in the fall because they are considering setting up something similar. The Dingle Pavilion features a pub setup alongside clothing and pottery shops. We also promote each other in terms of tourism. The Western Mass Tourism department and the Irish counterpart actually have a shared logo, and information packets, promoting their sister city’s community. Sullivan says the town is looking to create a similar working relationship with the community and town leadership in Valdarno. 

Photo credit to the Irish Cultural Center of Western New England


In the interest of promoting a good relationship with the leadership of Valdarno, town officials are planning a trip to the region. This trip is taking place in Spring 2023, and will consist of Mayor Will Reichelt, Town Councilman Ed Sullivan, and others. This trip is meant to make stronger connections now that the sister city agreement is in place. Before that, town officials from both communities spent around a year in talks, according to Sullivan, before signing the pledge, which promises “…a commitment to ensure mutual benefit to each City… [and will promote] any areas that contribute to the prosperity of our Cities…”. This commitment was signed by both Mayor Will Reichelt and Mayor Nicola Benini. 

We are witnessing the birth of a beautiful friendship. With trips and plans in the works for 2023 and beyond, this can truly be described as “a win-win for everyone”.