Senior UMSL students Andrea Bryant (center left) and Jordan Sanderson pose with Zeta Tau Alpha’s CANstruction trophy alongside Beyond Housing representatives (from left) Alice Wilson, Shonte Byrd and Ted Simpson, who served as judges of the Homecoming 2016 competition Feb. 4. Most of the goods collected were delivered to Beyond Housing’s food pantry at the Pagedale Family Support Center, which assists up to 150 families each month with provisions. (Photos by August Jennewein)

For several hours inside the Millennium Student Center’s Fireside Lounge last week, the theme of Homecoming 2016 came to life in an especially vivid way.

Dozens of University of Missouri–St. Louis students could be seen literally “Building Triton Traditions” that afternoon as they wrangled thousands of canned goods into colorful 3-D creations and competed for spirit competition points. Ranging from a depiction of Spongebob Squarepants to a miniature UMSL Tritons basketball arena, the nine CANstruction projects collectively brought in 10,086 nonperishable items for nearby food pantries.

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This CANStruction created by senior anthropology major LaVell Monger and the Associated Black Collegians probably needs no caption.

“It’s overwhelming,” said Ted Simpson, community support services manager for Beyond Housing. “We serve about 100 to 150 families a month. This really helps out and supplements the stuff that we do.”

The lounge filled to overflowing with cans, student participants and onlookers as the competition progressed. And deciding on a winning canned-good creation proved no small task for Simpson and two fellow Beyond Housing coworkers, who served as judges of the different designs.

Eventually they settled on Zeta Tau Alpha’s project, led by Andrea Bryant, a business administration major. Bryant and her team collected a total of 1,370 cans and incorporated many of those into their unique creation.

“We built a basketball court with stands and a ‘U-M-S-L’ in the middle,” Bryant said. “The theme for this year’s homecoming was ‘Building Triton Traditions,’ so we figured we’d stick to an older tradition for our design, which was inspired by Pack the Stands.”

Bryant was amazed at the overall effort, which seems to be a rapidly growing Triton tradition of its own.

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Senior biology major Geddy Trebus adds more cans to the Pi Kappa Alpha CANstruction site in the Fireside Lounge.

“This year, we all collected over 10,000 cans, when last year it was only around 400,” she said. “That in itself made this year’s CANstruction event a lot more worthwhile. Not only did we collectively benefit [Beyond Housing’s] Pagedale Family Support Center, but we also gave cans to St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Ferguson.”

Some of the student participants worked primarily with classmates and fellow members of their sponsoring student organizations, while others also drew donations from family members and others beyond the confines of the UMSL campus. Senior educational studies major Erica Runge went door to door in her hometown of Oakville, Mo., to collect several hundred cans.

A total of 4,136 cans poured in for the team led by Riann Rikard, whose sponsoring organizations included Delta Zeta and UMSL Ambassadors. She said her parents recruited canned good donations at their workplaces, and her sorority sisters also stepped up.

For more scenes captured during CANstruction and the entire week of Homecoming 2016, explore a Flickr gallery by campus photographer August Jennewein.

Evie Hemphill

Evie Hemphill