Grand Canyon University's Five-Point Plan
For decades, Grand Canyon University has been involved in helping disadvantaged populations in its inner-city Phoenix community by volunteering at homeless shelters, nursing clinics or homes that assist veterans, refugees, the elderly and victims of sex trafficking.
Those efforts are significant to provide relief for those in need, but the University wanted to do more. It wanted to do something that could lift an entire community and revitalize what had once been a middle-class neighborhood. It wanted to do something that could lift an entire community and bring about long-term transformation – first by meeting families’ basic needs and improving their homes and neighborhoods, then providing equal opportunity pathways to educational opportunities and finally creating high-paying job pathways that will change a family’s trajectory for generations to come. An ambitious and groundbreaking five-point plan was established in 2015 that has accomplished the following:
Serving families in need
As part of a partnership with CityServe and its collaborative network of faith-based nonprofits, corporate, retail, farm and food supply partners, GCU has created 87,000 square feet of warehouse space on its campus that will provide millions of dollars worth of household goods to families in need. Since September 2021, $9.2 million worth of surplus goods including beds, furniture, heaters, diapers, food boxes and other essential items has been delivered to the warehouse from major retailers such as Costco, Amazon, Home Depot and Lowe’s. The warehouse has only four full-time employees and is run primarily through the help of GCU student, staff and external volunteers. GCU is the first university in the country to serve as a CityServe HUB, with a goal to equip and mobilize students to meet community needs and to help Arizona families move from dependency to sustainability.
$9.2 million+ worth of goods distributed
21,779 families helped
22,336 volunteer hours
Making neighborhoods safer
Neighborhood Safety Initiative
GCU is in the midst of an 11-year, $2.2 million partnership with the City of Phoenix to increase safety and eliminate crime in the neighborhoods surrounding GCU. In the first seven years of the program, crimes in the targeted areas decreased 19.8% (compared to a 3.5% drop city-wide during the same time frame). The public-private partnership is being lauded as a model for other cities to follow.
11-year partnership with the City of Phoenix
$2.2 million invested into the partnership
19.8% decrease in crime in the first seven years
Improving home values
Habitat for Humanity
In this first-of-its-kind partnership, GCU is providing both the funding and manpower to renovate an entire community of homes in its neighborhood through a partnership with Habitat for Humanity, a nonprofit Christian housing ministry. Since 2015, more than $5.1 million has been raised and more than 31,500 volunteer hours contributed to renovate 469 homes in our community. Those repairs include everything from new windows, roofing, block walls, HVAC units, painting and landscaping. Median home values have risen 761% in the 85017 zip code since 2011.
31,500+ volunteer hours
469 homes renovated
761% increase in home values since 2011
Supporting K-12 education
Free tutoring at Learning Lounge
GCU is having a significant impact on public and private K-12 schools in the community through two groundbreaking initiatives. First, the University started its Learning Lounge program in 2013 to provide free tutoring and mentoring to students at nearby Alhambra High School — a once-D-rated school in which 90% of its families fall below the federal poverty line and for many of whom English is a second language. Three years later, Alhambra was nine points away from being a B-rated school and had earned the Future of Arizona Beat the Odds Institute Gold Award. The successes of the Learning Lounge have since been expanded to more than 300 schools, serving 5,500+ K-12 students with over 72,000 visits and more than 175,000 hours of study. GCU’s best and brightest students serve as tutors for K-12 students, some of whom are struggling just to advance to the next grade level and others who are taking advanced placement classes with an eye on a college scholarship.
Second, in an effort to broaden the successes of the Learning Lounge, GCU created the Students Inspiring Students scholarship in 2015. The SIS Scholarship is a collaboration among GCU, local high schools and business and philanthropic leaders. Each year, the University awards full-tuition scholarships to students from inner-city high schools who meet academic criteria, demonstrate financial need and complete 100 or more hours of required tasks such as college-preparedness exercises, community service and academic assistance in the Learning Lounge. GCU has raised $7.6 million dollars and has awarded 710 full-tuition scholarships to low-income students who otherwise may not have been able to afford college. The first group of SIS recipients graduated in 2019 and since then, over 150 students have completed their degrees and received jobs at companies like Banner University Downtown, American Express and General Motors.
72,000 visits to the Learning Lounge
175,000 hours of study
710 full-tuition scholarships awarded
Creating jobs on campus and in west Phoenix
GCU has become an anchor institution in west Phoenix that now employs, along with its partners, more than 16,000 people. As the university has grown, GCU and its partners now create an annual economic impact of $2.1 billion according to a study by Elliott Pollack & Co. GCU has also launched eight new business enterprises, including a hotel, golf course, two public restaurants, a merchandise company, a student ad agency and coffee and pizza companies. These enterprises provide management opportunities for recent graduates and employment opportunities for nearly 500 graduates, students and local residents, while also providing an economic stimulus for west Phoenix. GCU also offers free rent at its new business incubator space, Canyon Ventures, that houses nearly 30 potential start-up businesses. Three of those are already opening storefronts or headquarters in Phoenix.