They’re blazing a trail from San Miguel to GCU
By Karen Fernau
GCU News Bureau
When Esperanza Sesteaga, Vanessa Green and Yamilka Borquez graduate Friday afternoon from Grand Canyon University, they’ll receive hard-earned diplomas, hugs from family and newfound respect from students at their high school.
They also figure to be the start of something special.
The three are the first from San Miguel High in Tucson, a 360-student Catholic school for the economically disadvantaged, to earn degrees from GCU. Besides that, they are the first members of their families to graduate from college.
And the trio predicts that others from San Miguel soon will follow.
“I’ve shared my experiences with other students, and I know that many will, like me, go to GCU,” said Sesteaga, an education major who completed her student teaching in English at her alma mater.
Borquez, a psychology major, agreed. “I want to be an example, to lead others from San Miguel to GCU.”
For Green, Sesteaga and Borquez, GCU was a natural extension of their high school. San Miguel is part of The Cristo Rey Network, a collection of high schools that integrate four years of college preparatory work with work experience. It’s the only Arizona school in the network, which includes 32 schools in 20 states and the District of Columbia and educates nearly 11,000 students a year.
Jeff Glosser, director of academic alliances, said GCU is a logical fit for Cristo Rey grads nationwide.
“These students are all trying to better their lives, change the course of their families,” he said. “I think GCU fits their mission.”
For Green, GCU also offered the same helpful environment of a Cristo Rey school.
“Like at San Miguel, teachers at GCU talk with students. They know your name. They knew if I was struggling and encouraged me to come in and talk with them,” said Green, a counseling major now working in a Washington substance-abuse hospital. She plans on attending graduate school to get a degree in marriage and family counseling.
GCU’s nurturing, religious environment also appealed to Sesteaga, who earned her diploma in elementary and high school education in 3 1/2 years.
“GCU has so many of the same values as Cristo Rey. I could see myself going to GCU because it felt so right,” she said. “Cristo Rey taught me to be responsible for my education, so I met with professors, attended tutoring when I needed it, and went to summer school to graduate early.”
All three selected GCU over other Arizona universities after a tour of the Phoenix campus.
Borquez, who plans on attending graduate school for a degree in social work, is encouraging the Cristo Rey students to visit GCU.
“I felt a connection right away. It had such a good, Christian vibe. I tell them that if you feel the same connection, go for it,” she said. “I now feel like GCU is my home.”
Contact Karen Fernau at (602) 639-8344 or firstname.lastname@example.org.