COLUMBIA — Stephen Turban, a senior at Rock Bridge High School, was talking with a friend in Australia about which corner of the world was better: the Midwest or down under.
Their friendly debate got Turban to thinking: Why are people from the Midwest almost apologetic about their roots?
"Last summer, I got to meet a lot of other kids from around the United States," he said. "I noticed that people from Michigan, Kansas and Indiana weren’t that confident about where they were from."
Turban and Rock Bridge classmate, Ouma Amadou, recruited other students to lobby Gov. Jay Nixon through letters to create a way for Missourians to show their pride in the Midwest.
Nixon has proclaimed April 30 Midwest Pride Day. The date marks the 210th anniversary of the signing of the Louisiana Purchase, a land acquisition that included a swath of the Midwest.
"With Gov. Nixon being the central figure, he represents that (Midwest Pride) with his roots growing up and continually supporting Missouri to say, 'Hey, I love Missouri,'" Turban said.
"We want every state in the Midwest to be all over this, but we really need to make this something people here in Columbia can understand first," Turban said.
The 10 to 15 students involved the lobbying effort will host a festival at 5 p.m. April 30 at Rock Bridge, 4303 S. Providence Road. The celebration will include free food and live local music. The festival is open to the public.
The teens are giving back to their region by founding a Midwest Pride photo contest. The winning photographer wins $500, which was raised by students. To qualify, the photo must have an M and W somewhere in it. The contest is open to anyone.
"Even if you don’t want to win $500, it is a great way to support local high school students who are trying to make a change," Turban said.
Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.