Volunteering at GCU is as good as it gives
Editor’s note: This story is reprinted from the August 2019 issue of GCU Magazine. To view the digital version, click here. My LopeLife is a feature in which GCU students, staff and alumni share enlightening experiences. To be considered for My LopeLife, please submit a short synopsis of your suggested topic to GCUToday@gcu.edu with “My LopeLife” in the subject field.
By Alicia Burns
I consider the act of volunteering an essential part of my life because it truly brings me joy. Over the course of 10 years, I have had the honor of participating in so many different volunteer events while working for both Grand Canyon University and now Grand Canyon Education.
One of the many benefits I take advantage of is the time to volunteer and the multiple opportunities offered to employees. It’s so easy to get involved – the University has created a simple process of signing up for events throughout the year.
Since GCU also tends to hand out free T-shirts at each experience, my collection of purple in my wardrobe is weirdly satisfying. My family and friends can vouch that I am a walking GCU advertisement most days.
My first volunteer experience was a Serve the City day, when I came to campus and helped with the Little Lopes program at the local park on Missouri Avenue behind GCU. I immediately felt that it was going to be different than other times I had volunteered in the past because of the people who surrounded me.
The students were so polite and caring. I remember thinking, wow, these students have such great hearts – they wake up early on a Saturday morning and spend a few hours with the less fortunate. They were giving their time to teach the children about the love God has for them through their own examples and their servant hearts. I decided that from then on I would make much more of an effort and volunteer anytime I was able.
After that first experience, I continued to participate in Habitat for Humanity. I have been part of a demolishing crew and have landscaped and painted many homes. I like that the homeowners devote their time to volunteer with us to rejuvenate their homes. It gives me a chance to get to know them as our community partners and see firsthand who I am helping. They are always so humble and grateful for all the people who come together and give of themselves.
The finished product looks amazing and helps beautify the community around our campus. Seeing the joy on the faces of the homeowners makes it all worth it.
Welcome Week, the time in August when students return to campus after the summer hiatus, is one of GCU’s most well put-together productions. As students arrive with their families, they are greeted with so much love and kindness, delivered with so much enthusiasm, it is impossible for parents and students alike not to smile. It is all part of making them feel welcomed for a new year of amazing memories.
I have participated in Welcome Week for many years, and it never fails to make me feel so proud of the traditional student body we have at GCU and honestly reinvigorates me for the coming year.
Commencement ceremonies are my favorite volunteering events! They are choreographed masterpieces! I participate in almost every single one from sunup to sundown for two or three days, three times a year.
As our alumni body grows, so does the number of ceremonies for each event. I have done many different jobs at commencement, such as special needs staff, concierge, usher and regalia.
However, no matter what job I am working at the event, my favorite part is lining the lobby and clapping as the graduates exit GCU Arena to meet their families outside after the ceremony has concluded. They are so grateful and excited for achieving this milestone, you can feel the happiness. By the end of the third day, when my hands are sore and my arms are tired, I still clap and cheer just as loud for that group of graduates as I did for the first.
Another awesome part of the commencement ceremonies is getting to see the other “regulars” – it is like a reunion of dedicated individuals from all over the organization who volunteer their time each year.
We are all so busy working our normal day-to-day roles, volunteering also gives us the chance to catch up with each other. It is a bond that I truly believe brings us together as a team, even if it is just for those few days each year – that, and a certain lack of sleep over the graduation days.
Other projects I have been able to participate in with my teams at GCU are St. Mary’s Food Bank, Feed My Starving Children, St. Vincent de Paul and Canyon Cares events. Team-building is also something that GCU and GCE encourage, and so I try to volunteer with a group each year.
If you are able, I encourage you to donate your time and see what it feels like to give someone else hope. I know for myself, I feel extremely blessed to be able to give back to my community. Having a servant heart can provide faith to others. I have hope that it potentially will have a pay-it-forward effect on their lives to want to help someone else.
Wouldn’t it be amazing if more people just stopped to help one another? Please know that even an hour or two makes the world of difference to those who need it. You may find that this is exactly what you need in your life, too!
ABOUT ALICIA BURNS:
Alicia Burns is a Director of Operations for Grand Canyon Education, a GCU alumna and a current doctoral student in the dissertation phase. In what little spare time she has, she loves being with her amazing family and watching GCU basketball. She considers herself a Lope for life; even her puppy is named Thunder!
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