Building bridges

S&T mascot Joe Miner with his furry friend. Photo by B.A. Rupert

S&T mascot Joe Miner with one of the camels from Celebration of Nations. Photo by B.A. Rupert

Watch video of the 2012 Celebration:

These bridges are not the kind that Missouri S&T’s civil engineers might create. The bridges built through Rolla’s Celebration of Nations help connect S&T’s multicultural campus community with area residents in a way like no other.

Be a part of the festivities on Saturday, Sept. 28.

You’ll find members of the community and Missouri S&T students carrying flags from more than 80 countries and local organizations in the parade and hosting booths at the festival that follows.

“It’s a day for the whole family, with the potential to involve the entire community,” says Rolla Mayor Bill Jenks III. “It’s fun and educational. I think it’s great for everyone.”

Prior to the event, S&T’s international students visit area schools to talk about their home countries and to distribute “passports” that the kids can bring to the festival where they are stamped by different countries’ booths.

“I really appreciate the educational component of Celebration of Nations, particularly for school-age children and their families. What students learn about the different countries is amazing,” says Stevie Kearse, executive director of the Rolla Area Chamber of Commerce. “I don’t think many people here realize how many international students there are on campus or the number of countries they represent.”

To help kick off the celebration, the Rolla Downtown Business Association gets together with some of S&T’s international students to create a Scavenger Hunt that begins two weeks before the event. “Our Scavenger Hunt helps acquaint Rolla and surrounding communities with our unique businesses and educates them about the various countries represented at the celebration,” says Lonna Sowers, president of RDBA. Six prizes donated by participating RDBA businesses will be awarded to winning Scavenger Hunt entries at this year’s event.

Rotary Club of Rolla and S&T’s Engineers Without Borders chapter, which have similar goals like improving water and sanitation throughout the world, will share a tent at the festival. There you’ll find a world map where visitors are encouraged to pin the location of their home country or town.

Rotary member Bill Bicknell, a retired engineer who has visited 40 countries himself, says that last year many who visited their tent were unfamiliar with Rotary and what it does. “It gave us a chance to educate people about Rotary International, which is one of the world’s first service clubs. We have a presence in 160 countries,” he says.

“There are a lot of festivals around, but Celebration of Nations is unique,” says Kearse. “It has really increased awareness of diversity in our community. I love it!”

Story by Linda Fulps
Video by Terry Barner