Freshman gives love, consistency to disadvantaged kids

February 24, 2014 / by / 0 Comment

By Janie Magruder
GCU News Bureau

Kylie Bentley was just six weeks into her freshman year at Grand Canyon University when she participated in Global Outreach (GO) Week last October, jotting down her name on a list at every table seeking volunteers. She liked keeping busy and being around children, and that wasn’t going to change just because she was in college.

GCU freshman Kylie Bentley mugs for the camera with her new best friend, 4-year-old Jeremy.

GCU freshman Kylie Bentley mugs for the camera with her new best friend, 4-year-old Jeremy, who currently lives at Phoenix Rescue Mission, where Bentley volunteers.

Shortly thereafter, the 18-year-old was assigned to pitch in on a new GCU outreach partnership at the Changing Lives Center at Phoenix Rescue Mission in downtown Phoenix. Bentley and a dozen other GCU students visit the campus biweekly to entertain and teach Bible stories to children whose mothers are enrolled in the center’s holistic, faith-based recovery program.

Already, her life has been changed.

“I certainly have a greater appreciation for the life I was blessed with,” said Bentley, an elementary education major focusing on special education. “But being there also confirms what I want to do with the rest of my life, which is teaching at an inner-city school. God is telling me, ‘This is where I want you, Kylie, this is where you can make the biggest difference.’”

Bentley’s enthusiasm and leadership have earned her GCU’s latest Community Service Award. The award was created by the University’s Office of Spiritual Life to recognize students who embody GCU’s mission of servant leadership by spearheading community outreach.

Bentley is the fifth recipient of the award. She joins senior Jesse Villegas, who received the inaugural award for his work among refugees at the Serrano Village apartments close to campus; junior Jenessa Fesmire for her work with children in south Phoenix; junior Wil Gilliland, who also serves at Serrano Village; and sophomore Washington Livingstone, for his volunteerism at the Phoenix Rescue Mission.

Bentley, who will take her first University mission trip to Haiti over spring break in March, said she felt called by God to the center on the first day she volunteered. That day, she met Jeremy, a 4-year-old whose mom is working on getting her life back on track.

“Every time I come here, Jeremy runs to me, hugs me, and it doesn’t matter what happened at school or at home, because I get to be someone in his life who can be a positive influence,” she said. “And it’s so amazing to me that he and the others have come through so much, but they still have so much love in their hearts and a desire to be loved by us.”

On a recent visit to the center, Bentley and seven other GCU students corralled a dozen kids in a room to blow off steam with games before sharing the story of Noah and his perseverance in building the ark. The children, including Jeremy seated in Bentley’s lap, were encouraged to push for their goals and dreams and believe in themselves. They then learned the words and hand motions of Philippians 3:14: “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

Said Bentley,” I love that Jesus helps them through us.”

She also enjoys watching fellow students build relationships with each other and the children, and is applying for a leadership role on the University’s spiritual life outreach team for next year. Bentley’s demonstrated talents caught the eye of sophomore Rachael Dowd, who leads the partnership between GCU and the Phoenix Rescue Mission.

“A lot of people serve because they need to do it for community service hours or to fulfill something for a scholarship,” said Dowd, who nominated Bentley for the award. “But with Kylie, it’s quite the opposite. She has the heart to serve, but she also takes on an extra role, one behind the scenes. She comes up with ideas, and she asks to help, and that frees me up to focus more of my time on the volunteers. I don’t think she’s missed one time, and that’s remarkable.

“Stepping up is what being a disciple is all about, and Kylie definitely has done that.”

Contact Janie Magruder at 639.8018 or [email protected].

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