Sister Cities: Brest, France and Denver, Colorado

Kermorvan Lighthouse before sunset, Brittany, France.

On the surface Denver, Colorado and Brest, France seem like incredibly different cities. Brest sits on the Northwest coast of France with a rich maritime history and medieval towers while Denver sits in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains, celebrating its old west roots and serving as a jumping off point for the dozens of ski resorts nearby. So how did this second oldest sister city relationship in the United States come to be?

The Denver Skyline in winter.

In 1947, a High School teacher from Denver East named Amanda Knecht visited Brest. Upon coming home to Colorado, she shared with her students the devastation she witnessed from the destruction in Brest during World War II. Over the course of the following year, those students raised $32,000 to help rebuild the children’s wing of the Brest City Hospital.

Academic exchanges have been a central theme of the Denver-Brest Sister City partnership ever since. Denver Sister Cities hosts two French exchanges each year: a two-week reciprocal spring trip with approximately 15 youth from each city, and an eight-week unilateral summer exchange with approximately ten participants.

These immersive exchanges include home-stays and traditional school attendance to maximize cultural and language learning. Post-exchange evaluations show clear increases in language skills and self-confidence. The relationship is currently expanding to include virtual exchanges at the elementary and middle school levels and the creation of a Sister Schools relationship at the university level for student and faculty exchange.

A boat off the coast of Brest during the Grande Parade of the Brest International Maritime Festival.

Educational exchanges are not just limited to traditional schools. In 2014, Denver and Brest participated in a small culinary exchange allowing a Denver Chef to receive French language lessons focused on cooking terminology, attend a professional cooking school in Brest, and spend several weeks in two Brest restaurants, putting new skills to work.

Denver is proud of its ongoing sister city relationship with Brest and proud of being named winner of the Best Overall Program Award from Sister Cities International!

Written by Christopher Teed, founder of DC Embassy Events & Consulting. Teed splits his time between Denver, CO and Washington, DC.

This story is part of the #SisterCitySunday series on Medium. Each Sunday from October 2, 2016 to May 7, 2017, new stories from the 28 European Union Member States will be published. Stories will also be shared on social media using #SisterCitySunday.

To join the conversation on social media, make sure to use #SisterCitySunday and tag @EUintheUS and @SisterCitiesInt on Twitter and Instagram, and EUintheUS and SisterCitiesInternational on Facebook. Let us know about your experiences in twinned cities and share your partnership stories with us!