Learning Lounge cited for contribution to public education
Story and photo by Jeannette Cruz
GCU News Bureau
It takes a lot of work, dedication and collaboration to make a difference in a community, and Grand Canyon University’s Learning Lounge is all for it.
Wednesday, the Learning Lounge received an Award of Excellence in Individual, Business, Foundation or Civic/Community Organization for Contributions to Public Education, presented by the Arizona School Public Relations Association, during the ASPRA*tions Awards at the Arizona Broadway Theatre in Peoria.
The Learning Lounge was developed in partnership with nearby Alhambra High School in 2012 as part of GCU’s Strategic Educational Alliances Department and the University’s five-point plan to revitalize west Phoenix. The program provides free academic assistance and meals to students of any grade level and pairs them with GCU student mentors for one-on-one and small-group learning sessions. The results thus far have been remarkable.
- Alhambra, a D-rated school by the Arizona Department of Education three years ago, is now nine points away from being a “B” school.
- The number of high school graduates at Alhambra increased from 417 in 2013-14 to 536 in 2014-15
- Alhambra seniors earned $2.7 million in college scholarships in 2014-15, up from $1.2 million in 2013-14
- And the number of students taking advanced placement exams jumped from 174 to 302.
“This is a vision between GCU President Brian Mueller and the Alhambra High School District,” said Joe Veres, director of K-12 outreach at GCU. “It’s the ideal public-private partnership because we have an abundance of incredible students who have a passion to serve and we have a plethora of students who need a little bit of support.”
The college students who volunteer their time at the Learning Lounge have a minimum 3.5 GPA and demonstrate leadership, Veres said.
“They are giving up their summer and spring vacation times just to be here,” he said.
Over the past several years, the Learning Lounge has grown exponentially. To date, over 1,700 students have spent approximately 47,000 hours at the Lounge.
“The difference between the Learning Lounge and other things you hear about is this is not just talk. It’s action – things are happening,” Veres said. “This is a way to make the community around GCU the most educated community in the state – if not the country. It’s really the vision and the focus.”
Arlin Guadian, program manager of K-12 outreach, said the Lounge has become a home to GCU’s students.
“It has never been mandatory and yet on average our students spend about three hours a day on their own (in the Lounge) while exposing others to college,” Guadian said. “A lot of the high school students coming into our Learning Lounge will be first-generation college students – so we’re changing generations and we’re leaving a legacy. It’s not just a temporary success for our students.”
Veres said the award was a true blessing owed to the students at GCU.
“They make it what it is,” he said.
Contact Jeannette Cruz at (602) 639-6631 or firstname.lastname@example.org.