Prior to the formation of the Committee, the University of Wisconsin - La Crosse (UW-L), local businesses, and many private individuals had on-going connections with Germany. Many families in the region have German ancestors and relatives.
In 1989, Logan High School students began a student exchange with Werner-Von-Braun-Gymnasium (high school), now renamed Staatliches Gymnasium Friedberg; and, in 1990, Central High School students began an exchange with Ludwig-Uhland-Gymnasium, Kirchheim-unter-Teck. Since then, over 400 La Crosse high school students have participated in exchanges, and as many La Crosse families have hosted visiting German students.
The German International Relations Committee was established in 1996 by the La Crosse City Council to preserve La Crosse’s German heritage and to facilitate the many relations between the City and Germany. Hiltrud Steinmel-Bell, a local businesswoman and German native, and Jay Lokken, head of International Education at UW-L and City Council Member, were instrumental in the founding of the committee.
Our Twin City (Partnerstadt) relationship with Friedberg near Augsberg in Bavaria, Germany began in 2000.
An occasional letter is sent out announcing our annual scholarship fundraiser dinner and including an up-date of committee activities.
The GIRC is no longer an ad-hoc committee with the City of La Crosse. It has recently been restructured and renamed as the La Crosse Area German Relations Association, Inc (LAGRA).