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Program for special-needs kids wins top Honors College Symposium prize

By Jeannette Cruz
GCU News Bureau

The Honors College at Grand Canyon University has announced the winners of the Spring Symposium Showcase, recognizing nearly two dozen students for their successful faculty-guided research projects completed during the semester.

The top 11 teams of students presented their ideas to a panel of faculty and staff and competed for various scholarships April 9 at the Symposium. Projects submitted in the competition were based on four assigned categories: service, ethics, research and leadership. The event demonstrated the endless hours dedicated to the student projects.

Judges at the Final Symposium Showcase on April 9 score each presenting team.

“I know these students impacted numerous individuals along the way,” said Breanna Naegeli, Honors College program manager. “I am very proud of all 65 students that presented their work in the final symposium showcase and am grateful for the time and dedication they put forth in this program every day. These students make me very excited for what’s to come in the GCU Honors College.”

This year’s winners include:

● First place ($3,000 in scholarships per team member): “Making a Difference One Life at a Time,” by Armands Auzins, Austin Byrom, Daniel Gant, Grant Black, Joel Conrad and Meagan Craney. Sophomores volunteered at the Arizona Recreation Center for the Handicapped in an after-school program for special-needs children and gave the children an afternoon filled with fun activities, including decorating cupcakes, an Easter egg hunt, a science experiment and a game of soccer.

“Many people think of special needs students as different, but in reality they are some of the most caring and loving individuals,” Craney said. “We went to serve them but in return got served by them — they drew us pictures and loved on us.”

Second place ($2,000 in scholarships per team member): “Matched by the Maker,” by Hannah Sutter, Lauren Taylor, Cierra Sloate, Aleecia Gray, Nori Struckmeyer, Ty Seaton and Kolton Satawa.

The “Matched by the Maker” team

The sophomores, all business majors, aimed to change the meaning of entrepreneurship by hiring the homeless to work at a student-run Italian restaurant, La Carita. 

“Everybody in our group has such great passion for this idea,” Seaton said. “We’ve gone through the process of finding locations and we’ve found people we could possibly employ.”

The team has their eyes set on a space that sits on Central Avenue and Camelback Road. “When I drive past it, I always think how perfect it is,” Seaton said.

Sloate said that although the idea is ambitious, it might be “crazy enough to change poverty.”

● Third place ($1,000 in scholarships per team member): “Winston Churchill,” Joshua McLemore, Laura Ausenhus, Sarah Chavez, Lea Kadillak, Esther Kelley and Zack Maser tied with “Perseverance and Cowardice: Strength in a Society of Dependency, Brandon Loyola, Marissa Scheriff, Shelby Perry, Shelby Sanchez, Tiffany Hendricks and Natalie Salazar.  

The “Perseverance and Cowardice” team

The first team, all juniors, selected Churchill to demonstrate three styles of leadership — servant, transformational and ethical.

The second team, all freshmen, pushed for a need to shift the social mindset to God to create a virtuous society and cultivate a sense of perseverance.

“Perseverance versus cowardice was something that we all agreed on because it also is extremely applicable to the college student,” Salazar said. “At any point in your life this is something that you can apply if you are spiritually, mentally or physically struggling to keep moving forward. The ability to persevere far outweighs choosing to step back from the challenges.”

Loyola said, “It’s an honor to be the only freshman group to win. While creativity was also key in the competition, I think our group was very clear and directive in our approach. I was able to learn the value of deconstructing an argument into a very short and memorable presentation.”

Contact Jeannette Cruz at (602) 639-6631 or jeannette.cruz@gcu.edu.

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