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About Us
First US Citizenship class for Japanese Immigrants (1953)

Purpose

For nearly 100 years we have provided essential community integration services to each new wave of immigrants to St. Louis. We strive to serve all immigrants without regard to country of origin, race or religion. We believe that America becomes even stronger when we embrace new cultures and traditions. Our purpose is also to create a more welcoming community and shared prosperity for all residents.

Vision - A thriving community with an ethnically-diverse and engaged citizenry which thinks and acts globally.

Mission – To help immigrants and their families be productive Americans and to champion ethnic diversity as a cultural and economic strength. Learn more from our strategic plan.

Leadership

Institute staff are authorities in their fields. Click here for brief biographies.

History

During the period of 1900-1925, the National Board of the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) founded nearly 50 “International Institute” branches of their local organizations. The Institute purpose was “…to integrate war refugees into the American mainstream by promoting ethnic identity and leadership, being inclusive, and teaching Democracy and self-reliance.”

The International Institute of St. Louis (IISTL) was founded in 1919. In 1923, IISTL separated from the YWCA. At that time, we were accepted as a member of the St. Louis Community Chest, today named the United Way of Greater St. Louis.

The first Institute was situated on S. Broadway Blvd. on the second floor above a saloon. In 1925, we produced our first multi-cultural festival, known as May Fest, nearby on Broadway. Our first Festival of Nations debuted in 1934 to commemorate the dedication of the Municipal Auditorium (Kiel). Our early records can be found at the Immigration History Research Center, U. of Minnesota.

National Network

The International Institutes are still connected along with newer members of the US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI), headquartered in Washington, DC. The USCRI network serves more than 1 million immigrants annually in dozens of states.

Today the USCRI network continues to champion the cause of reason and tolerance and promote the concept of "Out of Many, One."