Student Workers Create Ornaments for Winning Tree

December 20, 2010 / by / 1 Comment

By Doug Carroll
Communications Staff

Carmen Grijalva never had much for Christmas — and, truthfully, she still doesn’t. But that doesn’t keep her from wanting to give to others.

Grijalva, a sophomore nursing major at GCU, and her twin sister, Irma, were born on Christmas Day. For most of their life together, they have had each other and little else.

Their mother died of illness when they were 8, and they have lost contact with their father, who was incarcerated for most of their childhood.

(Left to Right) Connie Sugarman, Carmen Grijalva, Porsche Randolph, Allison Childress, Michael Rodriguez and Leanne Hillman.

At Christmas, Carmen says, “Presents don’t mean a lot to me. It’s being with the ones who care about you.”

Her appreciation of small kindnesses prompted her to pitch in and help decorate a tree donated by the Student Contact Center to single mother Michelle Silver and her two children, ages 11 and 9.

Grijalva and about two dozen other workers at the center produced handmade ornaments for the tree, which was chosen as the best entry in Friday’s “Season for Sharing” outreach event in the North Gym.

About three dozen trees were decorated by University departments for donation to underprivileged families, and more than $9,000 in gift cards was collected.

Connie Sugarman, the Student Contact Center’s training manager, was moved by the efforts of her student workers.

One recent evening, she rounded up craft items at Michaels, put on Christmas music and put out food, and the students went to work on the decorations, even stringing garlands of cranberries and popcorn while they worked the phones.

“I give them kudos and props,” says Sugarman, adding that the students also kicked in $160 in cash donations. “I’m so proud of them. They don’t have much, but they still manage to contribute. They get it.”

Perhaps no one more so than Grijalva, who has been on her own with her sister since they were 16. They will turn 20 on Saturday.

“When our mom was around, we always had help (from others) with Christmas,” she says. “I know how it is. But when people ask me, I tell them I’m a giver.”

Irma attends Phoenix College and also works. The sisters, who expect to spend Christmas this year with their cousins and perhaps go out to eat, struggle to make ends meet.

“It’s really challenging,” Carmen says, “but we’re able to make it. We work for what we get. We put our faith in God. He is always there. Through Him, all things are possible.”

Reach Doug Carroll at 639.8011 or

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One Response
  1. Diane Markins

    People like Carmen and Irma are such living examples of what Jesus would most certainly want each of us to model at Christmas and all year. Thanks for sharing this wonderful story. I pray that they are blessed in bigger ways than they can imagine!

    Dec.20.2010 at 1:22 pm
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