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Head and shoulders above Imagine RIT Alumni, Campus life, Events, Imagine RIT, Students

Refugee children from Mary's Place joined RIT alumni and graduate students on a tour of Imagine RIT May 5. Dave Kelbe (orange shirt), a doctoral candidate in imaging science, arranged the outing. (Photo by Prisca Edwards)

I watched as 6-year-old Celestin surveyed the scene around him. Clearly this kid had it made.

Few visitors to the fifth annual Imagine RIT: Innovation and Creativity Festival enjoyed the privilege of Celestin’s bird’s eye perspective. Perched firmly on the shoulders of graduate student Dave Kelbe, the youngster marveled at RIT’s robotics technology as the pair wandered their way across Clark Gymnasium.

“I think one of the most rewarding parts of the experience was hearing Celestin ask me about the ‘wobots,’” Dave tells me with a gentle grin. “‘Are there going to be weal (as in ‘real’) wobots?’ he asked. It was really cool for him when he got the chance to control one.”

As a doctoral candidate in imaging science, Dave is remarkable in his ability to balance intense academic demands with a sincere affinity for community service. Earlier this year, it earned him campus-wide recognition as recipient of the Bruce R. James ’64 Distinguished Public Service Award. I experienced that sincerity firsthand when given the opportunity to produce a video on his achievement.

Among his outreach efforts, Dave volunteers at Mary’s Place, a support center for Rochester’s refugee community. It was his desire to bring children from the center to experience this year’s Imagine RIT. Celestin, whose family migrated here from Zambia, joined 14 other refugee children on campus that day. To help supervise the effort, Dave pulled in eight additional volunteers, mostly RIT alumni and current graduate students.

“It was great to see a bunch of really good friends with big hearts drop what they were doing to come and help out with this,” he says.

But Dave admitted that coordinating all these people proved challenging.

“It stretched me personally, but this was a goal that was worth fighting for—to reach out to the community and these kids. Imagine RIT is such a cool avenue to do that.”

Following a tour through Gordon Field House and Clark Gymnasium, the group made its way through “Artistic Alley,” enjoying some of the hands-on, immersive media exhibits that often appeal to youthful energy and curiosity.

Dave hopes the opportunity to bring these kids to Imagine RIT can be an investment in their future. He knows they face challenges ahead, and perhaps their day spent on campus will allow them to make good choices down the road.

“If they’re in a situation 10 years from now facing the temptation to turn away from school, hard work and things that can move their lives in a positive direction, if they can remember this experiences I hope it will help to keep them striving after a positive life experience.”

And hopefully that inspiration will help these youngsters rise to the challenge after they’re too big to rest upon Dave’s supportive shoulder.


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