How GCU practicums became missions of goodwill
By Mike Kilen
GCU News Bureau
Dr. Kimberly Grigg’s counseling practicum students faced a dilemma. They were assigned to schools for their graduate-level field experience hours that soon closed after the COVID-19 pandemic hit in the spring.
What happened next goes to the heart of Grand Canyon University student’s sense of community and giving back.
“They got proactive and creative by serving the needs of the school community in any way that was needed,” said Grigg, GCU’s Program Co-Chair in School Counseling, College of Humanities and Social Sciences.
One of those practicum students is Angelica Corona. A week into her practicum working alongside the school psychologist at Sun Valley Elementary School in Peoria, she said goodbye to many of the students she also teaches in third grade.
“I wanted to find a way to help my community, these kids I see every day. I know the struggles they deal with,” said Corona, who is studying for a master’s degree in School Counseling. “A lot of our students are on free-and-reduced lunch, and they really depend on it.”
Corona joined an effort to hand out lunches four days at week at a drive-through site for families. Each vehicle would be handed a meal pack for each child that included breakfast and lunch for the day. They also served adult meals for $3.
The mornings were spent assembling up to 200 packs a day with cafeteria staff.
“I wanted to make a rough time better for them and for them to see a familiar face,” Corona said. “The kids would always be so happy to see their teachers, just seeing the people normal to them in everyday life.
“It reflects GCU’s mission, which is to help the best way we can. GCU includes quotes from Scripture that really encouraged me to help others the best I can.”
Throughout the program, Grigg learned that many others had similar ideas in their schools.
Channa Griham, who is working toward a master’s in School Counseling while teaching at Eleanor S. Rice Elementary in Greenwood, S.C., struggled without routine and structure and seeing her students.
“Knowing their home situations and the environments in which they lived in caused many sleepless nights and many worrying thoughts,” she said. “I knew I had to find a way to support them and their families during these uncertain times.”
She decided to serve meals four days a week at the local middle school. The smiles on their faces eased her mind.
She also volunteered to deliver meals to at-risk neighborhoods, which were full of unrest as both the pandemic and racial tensions were flaring.
“It allowed a sense of humbleness and calmness to take over me,” said Griham, who also earned a master’s in Educational Leadership at GCU in 2018. “Being a child who struggled financially and being homeless in fifth grade, I knew volunteering was a way to pay back the community in which I serve.”
Others lifted the spirits in their schools.
Kristie Tacadina, a middle school special education teacher in Elko, Nev., who is studying for her master’s in School Counseling, found a way to honor seniors who couldn’t partake in the normal rites of passage this year because of the pandemic.
She was part of an effort to honor graduating seniors. All football field lights were turned on as seniors and their families formed a parade of cars past the football field fence that she helped decorate as a tribute. Participants honked and cheered and accepted gifts that Tacadina made for them.
“It will never replace their senior year, but it is the least we could do under these circumstances,” Tacadina said.
As reports of these and other efforts from practicum students came in to Grigg, she marveled at how they weren’t just trying to get through the dilemma to earn credit. She instead heard how meaningful the semester had become for them, even in a pandemic.
Grand Canyon University senior writer Mike Kilen can be reached at [email protected] or at 602-639-6764.