More than 8,000 miles from his home in Kenya, Kelvin Gesora found a welcoming higher education home at Ozarks Technical Community College.
Nearly 800 graduates attended Ozarks Technical Community College’s commencement ceremony on May 18. Most of OTC’s graduates were from Missouri, with some from other, mainly neighboring, states. But a few graduates were international — eight to be exact.
Every year, a handful of international students find their way to OTC. Unlike four-year schools with international recruiters and hundreds or even thousands of international students, OTC’s global students find their way to the college organically. They might come to the Ozarks because a family member immigrated here, or they came here for work or to attend another college.
That was the case for Kelvin Gesora, who grew up in Nairobi, Kenya. He moved to the States in 2018 to attend a college in upstate New York before moving to Missouri State University the following year to study hospitality management. He took a few classes at OTC and transferred to the college full-time to complete his associate degree.
“I really enjoyed my time at OTC. It’s much smaller than MSU,” Kelvin said. “Everyone was super chill and very welcoming.”
Kelvin found a welcoming teacher and classmates in his bar and beverage class in the fall of 2022. The instructor, Vicki McDonald, gave the students an assignment to create a beverage menu, a signature drink, and a theme for their imaginary restaurant. Vicki also had the students make a presentation to the rest of the class.
“When I told the class they’d have to present, I could tell Kelvin was nervous,” Vicki said. “When it was his turn to present, he found his voice and totally rocked the presentation. The whole class cheered for him.”
Kelvin graduated with his associate in hospitality management on May 18. Despite the nearly 8,500 miles between Nairobi and his adopted city, Kelvin’s father, Zedekiah, traveled to attend his son’s graduation.
“I felt so proud to have my father at graduation,” Kelvin said. “My whole family was so proud of me.”
Kelvin has a lot of experience. He worked in hospitality in Kenya and was a staff member at OTC’s restaurant, “Café 101.” He hopes to secure a job for his Optional Practical Training at a hotel in Branson or Springfield. Then, he plans to transfer back to Missouri State to complete his bachelor’s.
“I would like to be the general manager of a hotel someday,” Kelvin said. “I love the United States. I see myself being very successful here.”