Learning Lounge wins Governor’s Tourism Award
By Mike Kilen
GCU News Bureau
The unique partnership between Grand Canyon University and the Milwaukee Brewers to help students in west Phoenix won a Governor’s Tourism Award last week in Tucson.
“It is nice to get affirmation that we are doing something that other people think is meaningful for this community and for the state of Arizona,” said Shari Stagner, GCU’s Director of K-12 Outreach, who has worked with officials of the Major League Baseball team to create a Learning Lounge at the Brewers’ training complex in Maryvale. “It inspires me to keep doing more for this program, for the kids in Maryvale and, especially, to support the educators.”
The honor for Outstanding Tourism Partnership-Urban was awarded July 23 at the Arizona Office of Tourism’s gala dinner. Governor’s Tourism Awards are bestowed on individuals, communities and organizations that have elevated Arizona’s tourism industry during the past year.
Spring training supports education in Arizona because tax revenues from fans’ spending help fund education statewide, “but the Learning Lounge is such a next-level idea,” said Debbie Johnson, Director of the Arizona Office of Tourism.
“It extends the power of the Brewers to positively impact Maryvale far beyond the spring training season, and it personalizes the relationships between the ballpark, the University and the young students who take advantage of the Lounge. It’s such a unique and forward-thinking program, and it shows a commitment by both GCU and the Brewers to the neighborhood they share.”
GCU and the Brewers combined their common goal to infuse energy into the surrounding community. After the Brewers spent $60 million to renovate their spring training facility, American Family Fields of Phoenix, the team partnered with GCU to incorporate a Learning Lounge site, which opened in April in the complex on North 53rd Avenue.
The Learning Lounge is a space for area students to visit Monday through Saturday for academic support, a safe place to connect with others or have a snack. GCU’s brightest students offer tutoring and mentoring to the children — “our Learning Advocates are the ones who make this special and make it work because of how they interact with students and families,” Stagner said.
“We are not in it for tourism,” said Andrew Daugherty, General Manager of American Family Fields of Phoenix. “We are in it to help students on this side of town.
“Anytime you get an award it is nice, but more important is drawing attention that this could really be an impactful partnership.”
The Learning Lounge on the GCU campus has served more than 3,000 students since its beginnings, reaching 150 schools in the West Valley. Now, GCU’s Stagner hopes the positive attention from the award will add fuel to the Lounge at the Brewers’ complex — and offer inspiration to others.
“It sets a precedent for what other universities and major league teams can do,” she said. “I would love to set an example for cities all over the nation. Imagine how many kids we would support if that happened?”
Senior writer Mike Kilen can be reached at [email protected] or at 602-639-6764.