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Student's Passion Unleashed Through Bridges to Prosperity

With preparations for the first round of projects and exams starting to envelop any semblance of free time in my schedule, I began the last week of September with one goal in mind: make it to the weekend. However, unlike most students at Notre Dame, I wasn’t aiming for the weekend in order to obtain some sort of respite from the classwork. On the contrary, I had committed myself to over 25 hours of listening to lectures, participating in workshops, and mingling with complete strangers. Sounds like a great way to spend a midterm weekend right? Here’s the thing, I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. I guess that’s how it is when you find what it is that you are passionate about in life. My name is Keelan Rushing. I am a civil engineering student and my passion is bridges.

It was around this time last year that I first saw a flyer for a student group called NDSEED. There was nothing spectacular about the flyer, but I noticed that the flyer also contained another name: Bridges to Prosperity. Of course, being the avid bridge lover that I am, this name caught my attention. I did more research into NDSEED and learned that it is comprised of students who spend two semesters designing a suspended bridge and coordinating its construction on site in an impoverished Central American village. Can there be any higher calling than the combination of both bridges and international development work? I quickly got in touch with the right people and interviewed for a position on the 2016-2017 team. I cannot describe to you the joy I felt when I learned that I had been chosen to be one of eight members traveling to help develop a community. I quickly immersed myself in the process of learning about my team and about what it would take to build a bridge.

Every year, Bridges to Prosperity (B2P) hosts a conference for its university program. The B2P conference brings in students from all over the United States and Canada in order to equip them with the skills they need to build a bridge in another country. It was on this aforementioned September/October transition weekend that I found myself at this conference. My team and I spent the weekend bonding with one another and getting to know students from around the country. The single unifying factor for all of the students was a shared love for bridges and international development. The network of program alumni at the conference was astounding. It was incredible to see how graduates from different universities were so impacted by their work building a suspended bridge through B2P that they were actively seeking ways to stay involved in the university programs. I got to speak with many of these alumni and hear their personal stories about relationships they formed in the communities in which they served.

The B2P conference helped to teach me skills and construction techniques that I will need to construct a bridge this upcoming summer. It also helped to grow the bond amongst our current NDSEED team members. Though studying for my Monday midterm may have been postponed until late Sunday night, this year’s B2P conference was definitely worth the investment.