Westwood student awarded Colangelo Scholarship
By Jeannette Cruz
GCU News Bureau
All Emauni Burnes-DePaula, a senior at Westwood High School in Mesa, wanted this year was to go to college. But that decision revolved around money.
“At my church at the beginning of the year I wrote down one thing I expected God to do for me in 2017. That was provision for college,” Emauni said.
Her prayer was answered Wednesday afternoon at her high school when she became the 2016-2017 Colangelo Scholar and was awarded a full-tuition scholarship to attend the Colangelo College of Business at Grand Canyon University.
Appropriately, Emauni was attending her business class when Dr. Randy Gibb, the CCOB dean, Thunder, her family and school staff entered the classroom to make the presentation. And Emauni’s reaction went from shock to pure, total joy.
“Wow,” she said, clasping her face in her hands. “I had faith in God but this makes me love Him so much more. This just proves how amazing He is.”
The Colangelo Scholarships are named in honor of Jerry Colangelo, the namesake of GCU’s business college who is known as much for his character, integrity and servant leadership as he is for his unmatched accomplishments in sports and business.
Asked about her future aspirations, Emauni said, “I plan on starting my own clothing store with a focus on helping refugees in the Phoenix metropolitan area.”
Emauni admitted that at one point, she planned on becoming a fashion designer, but during her junior year she realized she had a passion for serving others. That’s when she felt the calling to pursue her own business.
The 17-year-old shared that she enjoys putting together chic outfits and has a closet filled with the variety of clothes that thrift store hauling and hand-me-downs can provide.
“It comes easy to me,” she said with a smile.
The scholarship is a fitting high school finale for Emauni, said Nina Johnston, the Westwood International Baccalaureate coordinator who has provided academic and emotional advice to Emauni.
“There were dark and difficult moments along the way but ambitious people have those moments,” Johnston said. “What I like most about the award is that it recognizes a servant leader, and that’s the kind of leadership that Emauni intuitively understands.”
To Emauni, Johnston said, “I’m so happy — I’m so happy you’re staying in town. GCU is a great fit for your values and your morals. This will be a good place.”
The scholarship means every bit as much to Emauni’s mother, Tihesha Burnes, a single parent.
“I can’t even begin to explain how much work it has been for her to get here,” she said. “We had challenges with housing and different obstacles in between but Emauni came through successfully.”
She added, “We live in Apache Junction, which means Emauni has to make a one-hour bus commute every day. She’s been doing that for the past two years and that tells you how committed she is … I just see great things in her future.”
Tihesha said she also feels inspired to continue her education at GCU.
“Who knows, I might be walking down the campus, too,” she said with a smile.
For Gibb, the opportunity to surprise the student with a life-changing distinction is “the best part of my job.”
“I get to award a Colangelo scholarship to an amazing student,” Gibb said. “It doesn’t get any better.”
Contact Jeannette Cruz at (602) 639-6631 or firstname.lastname@example.org.