Sophomore’s Scholarship Makes College Possible Again
By Jennifer Willis
GCU sophomore Andrew Arndt of Gilbert was a junior in high school when his world was turned upside down, and Sunday’s Third Day concert at the Arena will have special meaning for him.
Andrew’s 11-year-old brother, Aaron, was hit on the head with a basketball the day before Thanksgiving in 2007. What originally was thought to be a headache soon became something much more serious.
Aaron’s headaches got worse. His heart beat at a runner’s pace even while asleep, and he couldn’t hold any food down.
After many frustrating visits to the doctor, the Arndt family started to get some answers. Aaron was found to have a chiari malformation, meaning that part of his brain was protruding downward. When he was hit on the head, a nerve was struck.
He also had idiopathic intracranial hypertension, also known as a pseudotumor cerebri. Basically, the brain had built up a lot of pressure, as if there were a tumor. Yet no tumor was present.
Aaron went through several medications and two separate surgeries. The medication helped ease his heart and stomach problems, but in turn he became weak and lost his ability to walk.
“He’s a tough kid,” Andrew says. “He’s a real trouper.”
While most kids spend their senior year of high school applying to colleges and sorting through acceptance letters, Andrew decided to forgo college, at least for a time, and stay with his brother.
“He was going through all this stuff and I had become pretty much his only friend,” Andrew says. “Because of his illness, he’s been forced to stay home from school. Most of his friends have moved on and he’s been left behind. I just couldn’t leave him.”
Aaron’s medical costs also helped Andrew make the decision to stay home. Even though Andrew had some scholarships because of his excellent grades, his family couldn’t afford to send him to college and also pay for Aaron’s treatment. Andrew enrolled in some community college courses and worked for Arizona Bridge for Independent Living as a caretaker for his brother.
While he didn’t regret holding off on college to be with his brother, he did hope to attend someday.
“I still really wanted to go to GCU,” he says. “I thought about ASU as well, but I was just turned off by the large school and class sizes. I really liked GCU’s smaller class sizes and Christian background.”
While searching for scholarships online, Andrew’s father saw something about GCU scholarships being awarded at a Third Day concert in Tucson.
“My dad and I jumped in the car and drove down to Tucson for the concert, and I ended up being one of the lucky ones to get a scholarship to GCU,” Andrew says.
“It’s really been a God thing. It all fell into place. I got the Third Day GCU scholarship around the same time my brother had his second surgery and was starting to feel better. He’s made huge progress in the last year and is even gaining strength to walk again, so I didn’t feel bad about leaving him this time like I did before.”
Andrew is now living on campus and hoping to become a doctor.
“The experiences we’ve gone through with Aaron have made me want to go into medicine,” he says. “We’ve seen some good doctors and some not-so-good doctors. I want to be one of the good ones.”
Andrew also stays busy by working part time at GCU’s call center, volunteering with Extreme Faith on campus and continuing as his brother’s caregiver on the weekends. He doesn’t complain about the hectic schedule and says his brother is his role model.
“I don’t think I would have been as strong as he has been if it had happened to me,” Andrew says. “He never complains and he has never blamed God. He has wondered at times why it has happened to him. But he knows that God has a plan for him and He is always with him.”
Andrew says the $10,000 scholarship has made a world of difference for him. And he plans on being at Sunday’s concert, volunteering at one of GCU’s information tables. Three more scholarships, worth $3,500 apiece, will be awarded to new-student prospects at the concert.
The Third Day show, with opening acts Tenth Avenue North and Trevor Morgan, starts at 7 p.m. For tickets, call 639.8999 or go to www.gcuarena.com.
Reach Jennifer Willis at 639.7383 or [email protected].