Class of 2013: Christian Studies Major Jesi Smith Embodies School Pride
By Cooper Nelson
GCU Today Magazine
Cheer team captain Jesi Smith is difficult to replace. But Emily Stephens is going to try.
“At tryouts we’re going to say, ‘Who’s going to be the next Jesi? You need to be the next Jesi,’” said Stephens, Grand Canyon University’s cheer coach, who worked with Smith for four years.
“She’s made a name for herself through the cheer program and as an ambassador for the University — she’s the benchmark,” Stephens said about the graduating senior.
Smith, 21, earned a reputation around GCU for her community service and dedication to cheering at athletic events. Basketball fans recognized her unwavering energy and the ability to bring a crowd to its feet. She led campus tours for prospective students as a student worker at the Antelope Reception Center and served as a residential life leader at Prescott Hall.
Smith is graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Christian studies. She became the first to complete the program since it was reinstated in 2008. President and CEO Brian Mueller thanked Smith for her service to GCU and acknowledged her as a University ambassador after the men’s basketball team’s loss to Chaminade University in the Pacific West Conference tournament.
Smith plans to stay on at GCU as an assistant cheer coach. She also will remain at the ARC as an events service coordinator for Discover GCU events for prospective students. She will marry Ian Weeks in June.
Eventually, she would like to launch her own youth Christian sports summer camp, but she said she loves GCU and finds it difficult to leave.
“It all points back to being a Christian and being where God wants you to be,” said Smith, who grew up doing gymnastics in Yuma, where she attended Yuma High School.
“I love the community that this school promotes,” she said. “The presence of God is really evident here.”
Although her time as a student leader has ended, Smith hopes she can serve in a similar way as a full-time University employee.
“It’s time to pass the baton on to another student influence, but I hope I can still be that staff influence for new students,” Smith said.
As a life leader, Smith helped with community service events that cleared trash and graffiti from low-income neighborhoods. She also served as a mentor for other life leaders on campus and volunteered as part of a campus women’s ministry while maintaining a 3.5 grade-point average, earning a Student of the Semester award from the College of Theology.
Danielle Rinnier, discipleship coordinator for GCU’s Office of Spiritual Life, said Smith embodies Christian faith through her servant heart and desire to connect with her fellow students. Rinnier valued Smith’s devotion to helping other students grow their faith.
“It’s been really cool to watch her on our campus over the past four years connect with people who are different than her (personally and religiously),” said Rinnier, who served as a mentor to Smith during her time with women’s ministries and as a residential life leader.
“I think she will help improve the experience of prospective students and integrate all aspects of the University into her new position with the ARC,” Rinnier said.
Stephens said she cherished Smith’s devotion to the University and willingness to improve as a cheerleader. She said Smith’s accomplishments are even more impressive considering that she overcame a childhood heart condition and expected to be limited physically.
“As much as I’d love to keep her in uniform forever because she’s the foundation (for the cheer program), I’m happy to see her move on to the next level,” Stephens said. “But luckily she won’t be moving very far.”
Contact Cooper Nelson at 639.7511 or firstname.lastname@example.org.