Rescue Mission alums receive GCU scholarships
By Ashlee Larrison
Photos by Mathew McGraw
GCU News Bureau
Christianity is all about redemption.
It’s what Grand Canyon University President Brian Mueller drove home Wednesday morning at Phoenix Rescue Mission Signing Day in the courtyard area between the Student Advising Services and Student Life buildings. The event celebrated four of the nonprofit’s alumni, Amanda Jaramillo, Brian Farretta, Jacqueline Mix and Jesse Dalla Riva, who accepted scholarships to attend the University in the fall.
“We are fallen people living in a fallen world and we all fall,” Mueller said. “These people have had some significant challenges and they’ve taken the first step now, they’ve gone through the Phoenix Rescue Mission Program, they’ve come out of it successfully and they’ve started their new life. For us to be able to offer them this opportunity to take their life now to a whole new level is a blessing.”
Three of the four scholarship recipients attended the ceremony and signed their letters of intent to attend GCU, their stories serving as a testament to that idea of redemption.
In 2018, Jaramillo found herself at the end of her rope. She was struggling with drug and alcohol addiction and decided it was time for her to seek help, so she turned to Phoenix Rescue Mission. She said she received the support she needed to get herself out of the position she found herself in.
The soon-to-be Counseling with an Emphasis in Substance Abuse undergraduate student said that being granted the chance to further her education at GCU brings her another step closer to her dream of helping others transform their lives.
“The counseling that I had received myself as a client at the Phoenix Rescue Mission was so impactful in my life, so I am just wanting to be able to do that for someone else,” she said. “Having this opportunity is everything to me. It’s beyond my wildest dreams and I just feel so blessed.”
For Farretta, who will be pursuing his bachelor’s degree in Christian Studies with an Emphasis in Biblical Studies and a minor in Counseling, having the opportunity to continue to grow in his faith while also furthering his education on a faith-based campus is something he said will be “monumental” for him.
“I have completely given my life to Christ and decided that I want Him to be in charge of everything. Since I’ve done that, all these blessing have come to me,” he said. “I’ve gotten married, I have wonderful in-laws and now I have this scholarship. I think GCU is really giving me the correct guidance that I need.”
Like Jaramillo, Farretta sought help in 2018 for his struggles with substance abuse.
In addition to awarding three undergraduate scholarships, the last of which went to Mix, who will be pursuing her degree in Health Sciences, GCU awarded a scholarship to an incoming graduate student.
Dalla Riva is no stranger to GCU or its work with Phoenix Rescue Mission, having received a similar scholarship for his undergraduate degree in 2015.
Like his fellow recipients, he had long struggled with addiction before finding his way to the organization and completing its recovery program. Throughout his time as a full-time student, Dalla Riva maintained a 40-hour-a-week job with Phoenix Rescue Mission while also raising son Jaxon alongside wife Blake.
After graduating with his bachelor’s degree in Counseling with an Emphasis in Substance Abuse Disorders in 2019, Dalla Riva continued his work with the nonprofit, and he and Blake welcomed their second child, daughter Aria, shortly after his graduation.
“It’s been such a blessing,” Dalla Riva said. “I’ve been working, taking care of my family, being with them, supporting them, loving them.”
Despite receiving his diploma several years ago, Dalla Riva says he always knew he wanted to continue his education. It was only a matter of how. That how would be answered once Dalla Riva heard he would receive a second scholarship to allow him to work toward his master’s degree.
“It means the world to me,” he said. “I loved my experience at GCU, I loved my undergraduate experience, I love the work, I love the relationships … to be able to continue that into the graduate level is something I’m very grateful for.”
Dalla Riva plans to pursue a master’s in Business with an Emphasis in Health Systems Management to further assist him in his role at the Phoenix Rescue Mission. It is a blessing that puts into perspective how far he has come.
“To Brian (Mueller), to GCU, to the leaders at Phoenix Rescue Mission, I want to say thank you,” he said. “You’ve completely transformed my life.
“I was someone seven years ago that was homeless, on the streets, addicted to drugs and had no hope. … I was an outcast that never thought I would be in any part of normal functioning society and so, to be here where I’m at now, with the extras of family, friends and support, is just amazing.”
Contact GCU staff writer Ashlee Larrison at [email protected] or at 602-639-8488.
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