GCU partnership with Brewers is in full swing
Story by Rick Vacek
Photos by Takashi Sato
GCU News Bureau
Grand Canyon University has a new partner in developing west Phoenix. And the Milwaukee Brewers have borrowed from the GCU construction and community-development manuals, if the team’s beautiful new spring training facility is any indication.
University officials were on hand Tuesday afternoon to join in the Brewers’ celebration of what now will be known as American Family Fields of Phoenix, about 3 miles from GCU in Maryvale. The $60 million renovation, the result of a 25-year agreement with the city of Phoenix, includes a GCU Learning Lounge scheduled to open April 16.
That means K-12 students from nearby schools will be able to get academic assistance at the facility, including during the summer, from GCU learning advocates (LEADs). It all fits together – giving back to the neighborhood is a major focus for the University, of course, and the Brewers have the same goal.
“Our community outreach is going to be really important,” said Andrew Daugherty, General Manager of the Maryvale complex. “This is going to be a permanent home for us, and because of that we want to make a difference in the community. GCU has that same vision — a vision of how Maryvale can be — and we’re excited to be part of that.”
Daugherty, whose mother was a teacher, had no idea what GCU was all about when he took the job a year ago, but one visit to campus opened his eyes. “It’s first class,” he said, “and that’s what we aspire to be here.”
The team’s determination was thoroughly demonstrated by a tour of the Brewers’ new facility, which took more than an hour. (Find out more here.) Just like that, they have a spring training complex that compares favorably to others around the Valley.
But there’s one thing those other facilities don’t have: a Learning Lounge. It has become a staple at GCU, and the goal is to continue to expand the program well beyond campus.
The Brewers facility is a good location for students from the Cartwright Elementary School District, starting with Frank Borman Elementary School right around the corner. Several nearby high schools, including Maryvale, Trevor Brown and Glendale, also will benefit.
The nice thing with bringing students to a spring training complex, besides the aura of the ballpark, is that there are thousands of places to sit if the Learning Lounge is packed.
“We know how popular the Learning Lounge can get, so we have contingency plans,” said Dr. Joe Veres, GCU’s Vice President of Student Success. “If more kids show up, there’s a lobby that’s in the front. And then our third backup plan is to come out here to the stadium seating, which would be beautiful.”
Shari Stagner, Director of K-12 Outreach, said the facility’s hours will be slightly different from the campus setup in deference to the Brewers’ facility and security needs. It will be open from 3:30 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.
There will be another importance adjustment: Students from all grades will be able to get assistance every day rather than on Saturdays only. The reason:
“This (Maryvale) is a very young community,” Stagner said. “There are tons of K-8 schools in this community, so we would be turning away a large population if we’re minimizing it to Saturdays.”
The plan is to hire 10 LEADs for the facility, and one of them already is in place: Jose Monarrez, who wrote this piece for GCU Magazine about his experience as a Students Inspiring Students (SIS) full-tuition scholarship recipient, was at the ceremony on Tuesday to get a look at where he will be spending a lot of his time.
Monarrez served as a LEAD for students from the Murphy Elementary School District, where he grew up and attended school, in 2017-18 and this year has been working at the Learning Lounge on campus. SIS students pay it forward by volunteering for 100 hours per academic year in a Learning Lounge.
“This is going to be really cool because the kids are going to be right here, super close by, and there’s obviously the possibility for us to expand this into something greater,” said Monarrez, a mechanical engineering major who provides mathematics assistance. “You build relationships with these kids and they grow on you and you become friends sometimes.”
Monarrez sees yet another attraction to being at the Brewers facility: the opportunity to rub shoulders with baseball players, particularly those who are Hispanic. He won’t be the only one hoping to get a glimpse of a hero.
“It’s something I can look up to,” he said, “and I’m sure a lot of the kids here can, too.”
Another GCU student at the ceremony will be around the Brewers’ players during spring training. Tyler Whittaker was on his first day on the job as a Guest Services and Promotions employee and will work every spring training game.
What does that mean, exactly? Well, in the case of the Brewers it means sausages and T-shirts – helping with the popular midgame Sausage Race, throwing T-shirts to fans in the stands and “interacting with fans who need help with anything, making sure they have a great experience here,” he said.
GCU will have a third presence at the ballpark during spring training: Its hospitality students again will be staffing a Canyon 49 Grill concession stand. Call it a triple play – there will be plenty of GCU purple amid the Brewers’ blue and gold.
“We have great students,” Veres said. “You can’t look past the Grand Canyon students. They want to serve, they want to support, they want to help, they want to work with kids, and we have an abundance of them. They’re our greatest resource.”
It’s a resource that will continue to be tapped in other ways. LEADs already are working online with students from Andersen Junior High in Chandler and Rhodes Junior High in Mesa, the two newest Academic Excellence Site schools, and Veres said there are discussions about working with students in California as well.
As for elsewhere in Phoenix, he had an idea that again involves baseball.
“We could do this with the Diamondbacks downtown,” he said. “Why not?”
Contact Rick Vacek at (602) 639-8203 or firstname.lastname@example.org.