From the German American Partnership Program to best man


Monitor staff

Published: 06-08-2023 4:23 PM

Mike Frappier and Tim Wilms have been friends for half their lives.

The pair met at Concord High when Wilms was an exchange student from Wegberg, Germany, who stayed with Frappier and his family.

Thirteen years later, their long-distance relationship hit a new milestone as Wilms prepares to be Frappier’s best man at his destination wedding in Cancun, Mexico, in July.

“We’re not just friends, we’re like the brother we never had,” said Wilms. 

They met in the fall of 2011, when Wilms first visited the U.S. through the German American Partnership Program.

“From GAPP, to best man,” said Wilms with a smile. 

The program is a two-way exchange between Concord High School and Maximilian-Kolbe-Gymnasium, where Wilms graduated in 2013. Wilms said he applied for the exchange program as a teenager hoping to improve his English and gain a true American cultural experience, in addition to having an opportunity to share his own culture with his host family and classmates.

Through the exchange, Frappier said his friendship with Wilms formed instantaneously thanks to spending time together each day, and hanging out before the revolution of social media, which Frappier says can prevent a deep relationship from forming.

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“In this day and age, I don’t think you can make the same connection,” Frappier said.

Wilms was welcomed with such open arms that he felt that he was a part of the Frappier family, and still is.

On the second day of Wilms’ stay in Concord, Frappier's mom gave him a kiss on the head as he headed off to school, just as she had done with her own son.  

Frappier had a similar experience when he went to stay with Wilms’ family with the program the following summer of 2012. He said that he found a new appreciation for taking adequate time to rest on the weekends and visit with family, a distinct difference from the non-stop pace of life in the U.S. 

Wilms said the most important part of staying friends all of these years has been visiting each other as much as possible. Each year since 2011, excluding the COVID-19 pandemic, Frappier has flown to Germany to visit Wilms, and every other summer Wilms has flown to the U.S. to visit Frappier. 

They both credit their former German teacher Laura Ernst for their introduction. Ernst became the director of the German American Partnership Program during her 27 years at Concord High School and kept in touch with the boys after they graduated. 

Ernst would send out an email each year to all German students and former German students at Concord High School and would invite them to a Stammtisch, a German word for a get-together. At each Stammtisch, attendees would speak solely German throughout the meal.

Ernst said this yearly tradition built a sort of alumni community where she’d often see Frappier. During the last Stammtisch in November, Frappier informed Ernst who would be the best man would be at his wedding. 

“They really have made a commitment to their friendship,” said Ernst. She said the German American Partnership Program creates a unique experience for young people to create genuine relationships, bridging the language barrier.  

At the beginning of their friendship, the friends traveled to New York City together, which was their first time to the city. Sharing new life experiences together created a special bond between the two and they have kept that tradition going still to this day. They’ve visited 10 major cities both in the U.S. and Europe since they became friends, including New York City, Boston, Miami, Montreal, Düsseldorf, Cologne, Berlin, Amsterdam, Paris and Munich.

Wilms said it was a great honor to be asked to be Frappier’s best man at his wedding, where Frappier will marry fiancee Lindsay Evans.

“Mike's relationship with Tim – I think it’s so positive in so many ways,” said Evans. 

Evans said both Frappier and Wilms broadened their horizons and crafted a unique relationship that spanned continents, over more than a decade, with many more to go.

“I think it was such a special connection between these two,” Evans said. “Mike has a friend for life, Tim has a friend for life.”