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Russian Leaders to visit Kern
July 13, 2005
CONTACT: CONTACT: Sandra Larson 661/746-6056 or Cell -331-7639
Pauline Larwood, 661/871-6090


Bakersfield, CA July 13, 2005 — Hosted by members of Friendship Force International of Kern County, Russian elected officials and emerging political and civic leaders will spend eight days in Kern County for a hands-on introduction to American-style democracy and free enterprise. The club is one of 20 local groups in 15 states selected by the Atlanta-based Friendship Force International citizen-exchange organization to participate in the program entitled Open World, an initiative of the Center for Russian Leadership Development at the Library of Congress.

The Center for Russian Leadership Development matches the Russian participants with host communities and professional counterparts that are comparable with their own communities and official positions. Each local Friendship Force club will provide young Russian leaders with a personal look at their daily work environments as well as coordinate their participation in community and cultural activities and home stays.

Prior to arriving in Bakersfield, the participants will take part in a two-day orientation program conducted in Atlanta, where they will be briefed on U.S. federal, state, and local government and their interrelationships, the balance of powers, and rule of law. The participants will also learn about U.S. home life and customs in preparation for their home-stays.

The Russian contingent’s schedule in Bakersfield includes:

  • Saturday, July 16, 6:30 p.m., welcome, Renegade Room, Bakersfield College. BC Vice President Ken Meier will provide a brief history and mission of the California community colleges (community colleges do not exist in Russia).
  • Sunday, July 17, trip to Santa Barbara for tour.
  • Monday, July 18, 9-11:30 a.m., Kern County Administrative Services Building, “Point Room, explanation of county government structure by former Kern County Supervisor Pauline Larwood; 1:30-4:30 p.m., Juvenile Justice Center, explanation of juvenile justice program by Judge Robert Tafoya.
  • Tuesday, July 19, 7:30 a.m., breakfast at California State University, Bakersfield. University officials will outline the mission of the university, particularly as it relates to youth leadership development.

Following breakfast, the contingent will observe the National Youth Sports Program, the Children in the Marketplace summer economics program, and the College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP), a federally funded program to assist first-time freshmen. The group will also visit the Kelly F. Blanton Student Education Center later in the morning. Following lunch, the group will meet 1:30 p.m. with representatives of non-profit and collaborative services at the University Square building in downtown Bakersfield. From 3 to 4 p.m. they will visit Friendship House to observe its summer programs.

A young leaders reception, hosted by Bakersfield Mayor Harvey Hall, is scheduled at 6 p.m. at John’s Incredible Pizza.

  • Wednesday, July 20, 6:30 a.m., breakfast with the Shafter Rotary Club, followed at 9 a.m. with a tour of Shafter city operations; lunch with the Shafter Kiwanis; 2 p.m., Delano Youth Leadership Program; 6 p.m., attend Bakersfield City Council meeting.
  • Thursday, July 21, 9 a.m., workshop with BC student government; 11:45 a.m., tour of Bakersfield Museum of Art, then lunch with the Rotary Club of Bakersfield.
  • Friday, July 22, 7:30 a.m., attend meeting of the Greater Bakersfield Chamber of Commerce Government Review Council; 10:30 a.m., media panel at University Square building to discuss media role in reporting on social problems of the city; 6 p.m., an evening of country music, dancing and food at Buck Owens’ Crystal Palace.

This will be the fifth year of the Open World Program, which has always included the Friendship Force as one of the host organizations. The program has brought nearly 4,000 young Russian leaders from 89 regions to more than 700 communities in the United States, including 150 members of the two houses of the Russian Parliament, the Federation Council and the State Duma.

“The Open World Program continues to demonstrate its ability to respond to Russia’s evolving political landscape and to mount a large_scale effort of the highest quality,” said the Librarian of Congress, James H. Billington, who serves as chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Center for Russian Leadership Development. “I want particularly to commend Friendship Force International and its members across the United States for attracting broad participation in local communities to welcome and host our Russian guests in American homes,” he said.

In Kern County, the planning group is headed by Pauline Larwood and Sandra Larson. Larwood’s experience as a former Kern County Supervisor, and her current position appointed to the California Community Colleges Board of Governors, her training in history and extensive volunteer service to Kern County’s youth made her a natural to lead the preparation of a program for this group of young leaders whose focus is on youth rights, training and education.

“Friendship Force members believe that with each positive personal contact we make, we further the cause of world peace,” FFI President George Brown said, “We welcome the opportunity that Open World provides for ordinary citizens to come together in friendship.”

Specializing in short term group home-stay programs, FFI has conducted home-stay programs in Russia for many years, beginning with the former Soviet Union in 1985, in conjunction with Friendship Force clubs in cities throughout the former Soviet Union, including Moscow, St. Petersburg, Nizhny Novgorod, Korolev, Saratov, Rostov-on-Don, Ulyanovsk and Irkutsk.

A 1992 nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize, Friendship Force International is active in 125 American communities and more than 55 countries worldwide. Nearly a half-million volunteer Ambassadors and Hosts have participated through 3,300 exchanges, touching the lives of more than two million people since it was founded 28 years ago.



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