GCU employee, student honored at Hispanic leadership celebration
By Cooper Nelson
GCU News Bureau
Grand Canyon University has honored Angella Mejia and Anahi Ramos, two members of the local Latino and Hispanic communities, respectively, for their outstanding leadership and service in Phoenix.
Mejia and Ramos were invited to join GCU at the 25th annual Valle del Sol Profile of Success 2015 Luncheon and Hispanic Leadership Awards Celebration Friday at the downtown Phoenix Convention Center. Both women were unaware of the awards before Friday and were surprised at the event. Mejia, a University admissions manager who has worked at GCU for 11 years, received the spotlight employee award. Ramos, a senior at Youngker High in Buckeye, Ariz., was awarded a $2,500 scholarship for her freshman year at GCU next fall.
Sarah Boeder, senior vice president of campus operations, said this is the first year the University has honored an employee and the second year it has awarded an academic scholarship to a West Valley high school student as part of the Valle del Sol event.
Mejia deserving of spotlight award
Angella Mejia felt “at home” receiving the GCU employee spotlight award.
Mejia is an avid supporter of GCU’s efforts to provide education, safety and job opportunities to west Phoenix’s large Hispanic population. The award has inspired her to work harder to provide neighboring youth with the opportunities she never had growing up in poverty in Nicaragua and Honduras.
Mejia was misty-eyed Friday afternoon, remembering her difficult youth with no access to running water or plumbing until her family immigrated to the United States when she was 10. Receiving an award alongside community leaders justified her work at GCU and finally made her feel at home, she said.
“Just being at an event like that and being honored alongside other Latino people and leaders in the community was an immense privilege,” Mejia said. “It made me feel like I was where I belong.”
I am honored and it will encourage me to work harder. I know this is why God put me at GCU.”
“GCU is committed to educating, serving and supporting the Hispanic community, and this event is just a small representation of our commitment at large,” she said.
Boeder nominated Mejia for the spotlight award for her work as a translator for local Hispanic high school students interested in enrolling at GCU. When the search began for a recipient for the award, Mejia was Boeder’s first choice.
“Angella works hard to make sure students and their families understand the benefit of pursuing an education and that it is something they can afford,” Boeder said. “She has earned a name in the Hispanic community as someone to trust when pursuing high education. We wanted to honor that.”
GCU also invited 70 students from West Valley high schools, including Alhambra, Buckeye Union, Cactus, Copper Canyon, Tonopah and Youngker, to the luncheon to surprise one senior with a scholarship. Ramos, a two-sport athlete and member of the National Honor Society, stood above the rest with her 3.75 GPA and lengthy list of extracurricular activities and community service.
Ramos, who plans to enroll in the College of Nursing and Health Care Professions, said she was honored to be selected from among her peers.
Dr. Bev Hurley, director of academic partnerships in GCU’s Strategic Educational Alliances, said the scholarship encourages Hispanic students to pursue college.
“Anahi just stood above the rest, but realistically every student who attended the event is admissible to GCU,” she said. “They all are outstanding students.”
Sponsoring events like the Valle del Sol luncheon is one of the ways GCU is continuing its mission to provide jobs and education to the community surrounding the University as part of President/CEO Brian Mueller’s five-point improvement plan.
Ray Arvizu, a GCU alumnus and owner of the Phoenix-based research and consulting agency Arvizu Advertising and Promotions, has supported Valle del Sol’s luncheons for the past 20 years. GCU’s dedication to the Hispanic community demonstrates its growth as an academic and community leader in Phoenix, Arvizu said.
“I’m very proud to be an alumnus of GCU, and I think Grand Canyon’s involvement with Valle del Sol shows just how much GCU has exploded onto the scene,” said Arvizu, who graduated in 1980 with a bachelor’s in behavioral science.
“Coming here gives GCU a presence among all the other leaders in the Hispanic community, showing we’re here, we want to help, we’re active and that we have students and great people who are doing great things in the community,” he said. “The community is thriving and Grand Canyon is a big part of that.”
Contact Cooper Nelson at 602.639.7511 or [email protected].