Editor’s note: This story is reprinted from the April issue of GCU Magazine. To read the digital version of the magazine, click here.
By Jose Monarrez
Special to GCU Magazine
Grand Canyon University has become a beacon of hope for high-achieving students in the Phoenix area with its Students Inspiring Students initiative, which gives them an opportunity they probably wouldn’t have had otherwise – attending GCU on a full-tuition scholarship. I know. I am a Students Inspiring Students recipient.
But GCU’s passion for trying to make the community around it a better place has created another initiative – assisting the Murphy Elementary School District in southwest Phoenix.
I know all about that one, too. That’s where I grew up, and I am one of the learning advocates (LEADs) from GCU working with students at Arthur M. Hamilton Elementary. I went to another district school, Sullivan.
Hamilton Elementary is located near 19th Avenue south of Buckeye Road. Most people probably don’t have many nice things to say about that neighborhood, but the bottom line is that the schools in this district have not had the aid necessary to grow and become successful. A wise person once said that we must play the cards that we are dealt, and some of us have gotten better cards than others. When we see someone studying or walking down the sidewalk on campus, we probably don’t think about what that person has gone through to get there. They probably would think we’re weird if we asked them.
Yes, everyone faces some struggles and some have it harder than others, but those are simply the cards we are dealt. How we choose to move forward is up to each one of us. When GCU moved forward with its work in the Murphy district, I was one of several students called upon to work closely with the kids there in an attempt to steer them in a more positive direction.
Growing up there has taught me to make the most of what I have and also to share as much as I can with others. Being at GCU has helped me find a way to give back to my community by assisting the kids sitting in the seats I once occupied.
As LEADs, we go into Hamilton with the sole purpose of helping these kids grow not only academically but also as citizens. By acting as role models to these kids, we hope to seep change into their developing minds. A typical day with the kids includes an academic activity to stimulate and challenge their minds, accompanied by another fun and more enjoyable activity. Over the course of the past few weeks, we have grown close with the students, forging strong friendships and assisting the kids as much as we can.
Since most of these kids are Latinos, I take pride in helping my brothers and sisters overcome the struggles we all face together, especially now during a time where families are being broken apart and the struggles are great. Without the help of my parents, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Now I have a special interest in doing in doing for other students what was done for me.
Led by Dr. Joe Veres, Vice President of Student Development and Outreach, and Shari Stagner, Program Manager at GCU’s Learning Lounge, Students Inspiring Students is helping kids not blessed with riches. And thanks to GCU’s willingness to bring the Learning Lounge to Hamilton Elementary, the students there are being given opportunities that someday could help them make a big impact in this world … and right here in this neighborhood.
ABOUT JOSE MONARREZ
Jose Monarrez is a GCU freshman majoring in Engineering. Originally from Sinaloa, Mexico, Jose moved to the United States when he was 5. In his free time, Jose enjoys playing soccer and working on cars. His favorite soccer teams are Real Madrid C.F. and the Mexican National Team.
MORE ABOUT …
Students Inspiring Students
The Students Inspiring Students Initiative, a collaboration among GCU, the Grand Canyon University Scholarship Foundation, local high schools and business and philanthropic leaders to improve K-12 education in west Phoenix, annually awards 100 full-tuition scholarships to students from inner-city schools who meet academic criteria and demonstrate financial need. The students then pay it forward by volunteering for 100 hours per academic year in the Learning Lounge, GCU’s on-campus source of academic assistance for students of all ages.
Murphy District Outreach
–Aspiring teachers from GCU’s College of Education spend three days a week at Garcia Elementary School in a pilot program to help teach kindergarten through third-grade math, social studies, science and art.
–Volunteers from GCU and Habitat for Humanity Central Arizona have embarked on a plan to clean up and paint schools and homes in the Murphy Elementary School District.
–Three dozen GCU students travel to the Murphy district twice a week to provide after-school academic assistance to underperforming students at each of the district’s four elementary schools.
–Leadership coaching for district administrators.
–GCU students tutor and mentor kids at Hamilton Elementary School in a set-up similar to the Learning Lounge.