EAST LANSING, Mich. — Michigan State University's Office of Cultural and Academic Transitions provided Thanksgiving dinner for students who didn't go home for the holiday.
"We found from our data that students stay for various reasons. Some don't have a home to go to. Some want to study. They want to use the time to catch up or get ahead with schoolwork or have a job," said Juan Flores, coordinator for the Office of Cultural and Academic Transitions.
Another reason students may not go home is because they're from a different country or state.
"I came from Texas as a migrant student. So I didn't have anywhere to go or any food and so it was very lonely, right? And it almost caused me to drop out of school," said Felipe Lopez Sustaita.
The Thanksgiving Day Unity Dinner was started by Sustaita in 2003 when he was a junior at the university. He noticed students weren't going home for the holiday so he wanted to help. He started working with the Office of Cultural and Academic Transitions and secured $100 from financial aid to put together the first unity day dinner.
"We bought some fried chicken from Meijer and some some pop and water," Sustaita said.
Now, 18 years later, the Thanksgiving dinner saw over 100 students crowded into the Brody Classrooms for turkey along with Mexican and Asian cuisines.
Vanessa Maldonando, a Ph.D. student from Ecuador, said it was her first time attending the dinner and she was excited to see the variety of food options.
"That really makes you feel that, you know, people care about you that you're being included in what it means to celebrate Thanksgiving as a whole, especially for the international community,"
The Office of Cultural and Academic Transitions plans to have more inclusive dietary options next year.
Flores said over 500 students registered for the dinner and they received 50 volunteers to help serve food.
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