PARK CITY, Utah — The Park City Sister City Association is sending yet another group of Park City residents to France for its foreign exchange program while hosting a group of French participants in Park City, much like it’s facilitated since 1984. The then-mayor of Olympic community Courchevel reached out to his Park City counterpart and a partnership was formed. By comparison, Provo, UT has as many as ten sister cities while Park City and Courchevel remain exclusive.
Park City High School student, Rachael Haerter, with the assistance of teacher, Bernard Rizzotto, is presently in France. She’s earned an invitation to return to New York temporarily later this week to compete in the USA Nordic, Ski Jumping, Olympic Team Trials, an added bonus to her winter.
Tina Quayle is the President of the Park City Sister City Association. Quayle told me that the COVID pandemic has definitely played a significant role in the foreign exchange program. Working on a global time-zone schedule presents its own set of logistics, let alone managing the health and safety of up to 25 participants at a time. At the very beginning of the pandemic, Quayle’s decades-long international rapport helped get everyone back home to their respective two countries safe and sound. She’s now, while juggling the current participants, attempting to get COVID-cancelees back into the rotation.
For the most part, it’s coincidental that Haerter is involved in elite sports. Other Park City participants have shown hobby-level interest and skill in activities such as cooking. Quayle, whose own daughter was an elite international athlete as well, paired a Park City High School student with a two-Michelin Star chef in France where she stayed/studies for three months. About the previously extremely shy student/chef, Quayle told me, “I’ve just seen so many kids change and grow from being away from their parents away from their siblings away from their culture. And, and to see a different, you know, side of the world it kind of opens them up and gives them a resilience that I don’t believe that they knew that they had.”
Park City professionals, like Bill Ligety, participate in the program too. Seeing as similar situations which include workforce housing, snow removal, garbage removal, and second homeownership opportunities, are ever-present, learning occurs across borders as adults travel to share experiences.
Travel for trips is a different category, one from which Quayle steers clear. She told me, “I don’t advertise it because I would have 100 people, ready, willing, and able on any given day and with our recently acquired 501 3 C status, were simply not in the business of ski vacations.”
That’s not to say that Americans there on Quayle’s academic and cultural exchange programs aren’t skiing at all. Should they want to, and Haerter’s exchange student, Maeline Boudon-Cluzeau, is one who does, Park City Mountain provides lift tickets, and Switchback Sports provides ski rentals. The Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation has also offered donated skating passes to check out the action at the Utah Olympic Oval.
For students, no minimum grade point average is required and only a rudimentary language level is required. Quayle told me that, “The Park City School District French Dual-Immersion Program has certainly enhanced all stakeholders’ experiences.” Nor are there financial parameters. Parents are responsible for fitting the flights bill and when students land in France or in Salt Lake City, respectively, parents pay for the predictable teenage wants and needs of their short-term house guests. perhaps it’s also coincidental that Rachael’s dad, Chris, is an airline pilot, perhaps not.
Haerter has a brother, CJ, who when the Prom King can find time away from his heavy competition schedule as a Special Olympics athlete enjoys spending time with his new housemate. Boudon-Cluzeau has a brother back in France, to which Rachael told me, “CJ and she get along great. I think it’s fun for her to have a brother around in America.”
Quayle ended our interview with a “Merci Beaucoup.”