The Sister Cities Student Exchange Programme is a cross-community programme that has been running since 2000. It aims to provide Antrim and Newtownabbey’s young adults with an opportunity to travel to Gilbert, Arizona to develop an understanding of a different country, its culture and people through a family living experience.
Making the world a better place by bringing people together one friendship at a time was the dream of President Dwight D. Eisenhower when he introduced the Sister Cities concept. The programme coordinates cultural, trade, educational, and sports programs that promote international and intercultural knowledge and understanding. The Newtownabbey link with Gilbert was established on November 17, 1998 and was a first for both areas.
Gilbert is a young, affluent community in central Arizona. Incorporated on July 6, 1920, it is a relatively new community that has seen tremendous growth during the past three decades. Gilbert has experienced a rapid transition from a historically agriculture-based community to an urban centre and suburb in the Phoenix Metropolitan Area. In the last three decades, Gilbert has grown at a pace unparalleled by most communities in the United States, increasing in population from 5,717 in 1980 to over 273,136 in 2021.