A dozen area middle-schoolers are preparing to trek more than 6,000 miles from home this summer, after being selected to take part in the community's annual Sister Cities exchange program.

A dozen area middle-schoolers are preparing to trek more than 6,000 miles from home this summer, after being selected to take part in the community's annual Sister Cities exchange program.

For a week, Shawnee area youth — along with chaperones and translator — will tour Japan.

The middle-schoolers will spend a day touring Tokyo, the capital of Japan, before heading to Shawnee's Sister City, Nikaho, Nancy Sandmann, an organizer with the program, said.

“They will stay in the homes of host Japanese families, where they experience first-hand how a Japanese family lives, what they eat, where they sleep, and how they spend their free time,” she said. “They will visit a junior high school, attend a traditional tea ceremony, dress in a traditional Japanese outfit (a Kimono), go to the Sea of Japan and attend the annual lantern festival, the Kanto Festival in Akita.”

In October, Shawnee will take its turn to host delegates from Nikaho, Sandmann said.

“They will stay with local families, go to one of our middle schools and attend a Halloween party, among other things,” she said.

Open to seventh-graders, local delegates are chosen for the annual trip after successfully completing a written application and an interview, Sandmann said.

“The delegates meet several times before leaving on their trip to discuss and learn about Japanese customs, their money, learn to use chopsticks; they even try some Japanese food and candy, Sandmann said. “They are required to study some basic Japanese language.”

She said the group also participates in community activities, including cleaning the local Peace Garden, which they did Thursday — as well as commemorating the anniversary of the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building by planting flowers around the local memorial.

Teacher Connie Walker, from Horace Mann, is one of the chaperones for the trip; she said the group will be gone the first week of August.

The youth will be escorted by adult delegates Michael Cannady, 2018 Chairman; Walker; and Yoko Loftis, translator. Student delegates include Luke Dyer, Grove; Audrey Gaines, Grove; Hope Hanna, North Rock Creek; Phoenix Hindman, SMS; Allison Holter, Grove; Mia Jennings, SMS; Emma Monge, Grove; Daniel Phillips, SMS; Dynasty Poire, SMS; Allie Ratcliff, SMS; DezaRae Simmons, SMS; and Olivia Stevenson, SMS.

A big fundraiser is coming next week to offer locals an opportunity to help offset costs for delegates.

The Sister Cities organization will be hosting its annual International dinner from 6 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Shawnee Middle School (SMS).

The cost is $10 per person.

Walker said tickets can be purchased from any of the delegates or chaperones.

“If you call one of the participating schools, someone can probably direct you to the right person,” she said.

This year's delegates are from SMS (405) 273-0403; Grove (405) 275-7435; and North Rock Creek (405) 214-9477.