Representatives from Hou Kong International School and Central Washington University met in July to discuss a possible partnership. From left: Mrs. Tun Ieong Iao, CWU President Jim Gaudino, Devonne Iao, Principal of Hou Kong Middle School Dr. Tun Ieong Iao, Sammamish City Councilman Ramiro Valderrama, CWU board member Ron Erickson, Sammamish City Manager Lyman Howard, Aaron Iao, and Calvin Iao (son of Dr. Iao). (Courtesy Photo)

Sammamish mulls sister city, CWU partnerships with Macau, China

A growing relationship between Central Washington University and the Hou Kong International School in Macau, China, could bring partnership opportunities, including the possible formation of a sister city relationship, in Sammamish.

In July, Sammamish City Councilmember Ramiro Valderrama met with leadership from both CWU and Hou Kong to facilitate a meeting between the two parties about future programs that could take place at CWU’s new Sammamish campus.

The campus, located in the former Mars Hill Church building, is opening for its first year of operation and will offer undergraduates classes, a Running Start program and continuing education classes. CWU also has a teacher exchange program with the Hou Kong School, Valderrama said.

The meeting discussed further possibilities a partnership between the two schools could make possible. In 2018, Hou Kong wants to bring 200 students to the CWU campus in Sammamish for a summer program and hopes to continue to expand its relationship with the school to eventually set up a year-long exchange program, Valderrama said.

While in Sammamish, the representatives from Hou Kong and the city of Macau also met with administrations from other nearby schools like Eastside Catholic and community organizations like the YMCA and Rotary to discuss other possible community partnerships. Valderrama also said the Sammamish Chamber of Commerce expressed interest in establishing ties with the city.

“As the schools and the Y come on board, the chamber wants to get involved in this, Rotary in Sammamish also would like to be able to take advantage,” he said. “If we are going to have all these students coming and our students going over time, we would like to establish ties with the Macau Rotary to benefit and increase the cultural ties.”

Macau already has several sister cities around the world, but none in the United States. Valderrama said the Chinese representatives were now beginning to investigate the possibility of forming a sister city relationship with Sammamish.

Valderrama plans to encourage the potential partnership and said this would be the realization of a plan put in place by the Sammamish City Council five years ago. Valderrama was on a task force created by the council to look at creating sister city relationships, but the project was shelved.

“The council looked at all of these with the chamber, Rotary and Y and said this is something that we should do. The council at that time said they wanted to do it and allocated $5,000 to get this rolling,” he said. “Since then it has been dormant. Should Macau formally look at that, then I will be putting a formal request with the council to move forward and discuss a sister city relationship with Macau. We now have our schools, non-profits, community service, our chamber in talks. Ironically the city would be the last to go, but you want the city to be able to encourage those kinds of ties to go forward and, given the magnitude and size of the city, we would be lucky to be considered by a city like Macau.”

The Hou Kong international School is continuing its partnership with CWU and is in contact with other area schools to share information like curriculum for possible summer high school programs in the future.

”It would be a real unique opportunity for us, and our citizens would greatly benefit from an opportunity to do this,” Valderrama said.