All business: Colangelo Scholars lead the way

By Rick Vacek
GCU News Bureau

Receiving a full-tuition scholarship to Grand Canyon University is an honor and a tremendous reward.

The Colangelo Scholarships began in 2015 after Jerry Colangelo's name was attached to the Colangelo College of Business.

Receiving a full-tuition Colangelo Scholarship is all of that – but it’s also a responsibility.

The 2020 Colangelo Scholars, Avery Bernard and Belle Rakestraw, both are from outside Arizona and still are months away from living on campus, but they already are taking their new role seriously. Following in the footsteps of Jerry Colangelo, namesake of the Colangelo College of Business (CCOB), does that to you.

Rakestraw, from East Peoria, Ill., already has joined the Honors College student advisory board and can’t wait to get to campus to join multiple clubs and even start one of her own. And then listen to how Bernard is talking about the future:

“I’m now a representative of the Colangelo College of Business, so I just need to show GCU and other students that I’m there to be a part of it and that I am willing to contribute,” she said from her home in Vacaville, Calif.

It is a feeling that Carson Foley, a 2019 Colangelo Scholar from Overland Park, Kan., likens to a child getting a dog and being entrusted with its care.

Carson Foley, a 2019 Colangelo Scholarship recipient, compiled a long list of accomplishments as a freshman.

“This is kind of the same idea,” he said. “I wanted to be a leader. I wanted to lead in CCOB. The scholarship was like, ‘Here’s your opportunity. Here’s a launching ground for it.’ I was able to almost have the validity to lead within CCOB at a young age because I had a platform to do that.

“If you come into the school knowing that you’re one of the top people in your class – and I know that’s completely subjective – it gives you a certain confidence, like, ‘I am here for a reason, and I’m here to make a difference.’ And other people see that you can make a difference.”

In just one academic year at GCU, Foley has made a difference in various ways. He was a student worker in the Honors College, was a member of its student advisory board, helped promote employment opportunities and arrange off-campus employer visits, and finished second in the Canyon Challenge entrepreneurial competition last December for his entry, Mode, a social media platform designed to combat depression issues.

Remember, he was only a freshman.

Even after the COVID-19 pandemic ended his summer internship at LinkedIn in San Francisco before it started, the double major (entrepreneurial studies/marketing and advertising) has remained a man in motion. When he’s not working remotely for an advertising agency, he’s mowing lawns.

Rebekah Neu says she feels like "more than just a number" at GCU.

That’s just the way he always has done it. He did three internships – in real estate, ticket-selling and tech – while in high school. To Foley, work is fun.

“A lot of kids, they’ll go to the pool, they’ll go hang out, they’ll go on vacations. I just enjoy working and business,” he said. “It’s all perspective. If you’ve got a good perspective on life, nothing is work – even if you’re doing roofing in Phoenix in the middle of July.”

Rebekah Neu, a 2018 Colangelo Scholar who is on track to graduate next year, said she felt like a regular college student until the second semester of her freshman year. Then she attended a luncheon for the Colangelo Scholars, and it hit her – this is special.

“It has really impacted my life dramatically,” the supply chain and logistics management major and CCOB student worker said. “I just felt this overwhelming amount of support from the staff and admins at the Colangelo College of Business. It made me realize how deeply these people care about me.

“I am more than just a number. I just think that speaks volumes to GCU’s character.”

The first Colangelo Scholars all were from the Valley when the program began in 2015. A group led by CCOB Dean Dr. Randy Gibb would make the presentation in person. But it now is a national effort, managed by CCOB Program Development Specialist Steve Thomas.

Belle Rakestraw has been working in the student training development program at Caterpillar Defense.

“It is fun to think back to the first few years when we walked into high school classrooms with Thunder to surprise students with the news of earning the scholarship,” Gibb said. “As we have expanded the application process, Carson, from Kansas, has done phenomenal in just his first year, really representing what it means to be a Colangelo Scholarship recipient. Rebekah works in CCOB as our top/lead ASW (Awesome Student Worker) – she is outstanding.

“The level of students who applied this year was particularly impressive, which speaks to the high quality of character of Avery and Belle.”

Rakestraw was struck by the high quality of what she saw as soon as she set foot on campus during a Discover GCU trip in November.

“I thought it was so beautiful,” she said. “I had just come from a different college campus visit, and GCU was a whole ’nother world. My biggest two focuses in life are my spiritual life and my career goals, and GCU aligns perfectly with them.

“I just knew when I stepped on campus it was the perfect match for me. Everybody there is just so kind, like no other people I’ve ever met.”

Like the others, she already has accomplished a lot. She is a marketing communications intern in the student training development program at Caterpillar Defense, which designs, engineers and manufactures products for the U.S. military. She works 40 hours a week during the summer and 7-10 a.m. during the academic year before going to school.

Avery Bernard will be attending GCU alongside her twin sister, Ella, and is grateful that her family will have to pay college tuition for only one of them.

“That’s going to definitely help me when coming to GCU – I’m already going to have that background in business,” she said.

And in case you’re wondering, no, her nickname doesn’t have a connection to the main character in “Beauty and the Beast.” Her full name is Isabelle, but everyone calls her Belle, that’s all.

Bernard’s background includes a lot of areas. Like Foley, she’s improvising during the pandemic – she’s working at a grocery store. She ran high school track and cross country for four years, she was chosen to be her school’s lone representative at a state leadership camp for girls, and she was president of the school’s Christian club.

“It’s always kind of scary to share your faith at a public school,” she said, “but I loved it because it really has helped me and helped other kids be bold and share what they believe in.”

She plans to major in economics and finance but hopes to become a lawyer. And she won’t be coming alone – her twin sister, Ella, also is enrolled at GCU, as a nursing major.

“This is such a blessing for my family,” Avery said. “Paying for two kids at the same time, it was going to be kind of shocking. This is such a wonderful thing that they’re doing for my family – I want to do what I can to give back.”

She already is doing just that. After all, she’s a representative of the Colangelo College of Business ... and a leader.

Brendan Dyer shared his joy with his sister Courtney (left), his mother, Robyn, and his new furry friend, Thunder, when he was named one of the first Colangelo Scholars in 2015.


2015: Brendan Dyer, Dulce Carreon, Jocelyn Arellano

2016: Tierney Gallagher, Areina Wilson, Lucero Maya Sosa

2018: Rebekah Neu

2019: Simon Bowen, Christian Gannon, Carson Foley

2020: Belle Rakestraw, Avery Bernard

Contact Rick Vacek at (602) 639-8203 or [email protected].


Related content:

GCU Today: Colangelo Scholarship to transform students' lives

GCU Today: Colangelo takes his new GCU role to heart

GCU Today: Business student makes his pitch for acting career


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