By Jeannette Cruz
GCU News Bureau
In recent years, Grand Canyon University’s efforts to revitalize west Phoenix have been felt throughout the community – from renovating hundreds of homes in the neighborhood to reducing crime. But its most significant contribution has been its assistance to neighboring public schools through its Learning Lounge.
That is one reason the Milwaukee Brewers have committed to keeping Phoenix as their spring training home for another 25 years and have decided to partner with GCU to open a new Learning Lounge at the team’s Maryvale facility.
The Brewers will commit to $63 million for renovation and development of the complex, including a dedicated Learning Lounge space. As a result, local school districts, students and families all will be able to take advantage of the tutoring services GCU offers.
In announcing the partnership, Tyler Barnes, Vice President of Communications for the Brewers, said, “We know that GCU is a very important fabric of the community of Maryvale, and we view our partnership with the community and GCU just as importantly. We wanted this renovation project to be more than a baseball project. This is a community initiative, and the goal is to have this program serve as a key with our relationship with GCU and the local Maryvale schools.”
The Lounge is a large, welcoming space where students can curl up on couches to read, meet with tutors in private offices or practice their work on computers. Dr. Joe Veres, Executive Director of Student Development and Outreach, said the idea is to have a building of 3,000-5,000 square feet identical to the study area at GCU’s main campus.
The Learning Lounge was introduced in partnership with nearby Alhambra High School in 2012 as part of GCU’s Strategic Educational Alliances Department and the University’s five-point plan to revitalize west Phoenix.
GCU President Brian Mueller approached Kent Scribner, Superintendent of the Phoenix Union High School District, to see what the University could do to help Alhambra, less than a half-mile west of campus. Students at Alhambra, where more than 40 languages were spoken, had challenges with understanding English and staying in school.
The program provides free academic assistance and meals to students of any grade level and pairs them with a GCU LEAD (Learning Advocate) for one-on-one and small-group learning sessions.
The University and the Brewers initiated discussions during the summer to collaborate, renovate and expand Maryvale Baseball Park, the 19-year-old facility that has been widely enjoyed by the Maryvale community.
“GCU has been a strong advocate for the West Valley with all of our revitalization efforts, and we want to do everything we can to support other institutions that are anchors in this part of town,” said Debbie Accomazzo, the University's Community Outreach Manager, who was a part of the initial conversation. “The Brewers have been part of the fabric of this community for a long time."
Accomazzo told of how the University and Brewers lobbyist John Kaites scheduled a tour of the Learning Lounge and met with a handful of LEADs.
“I think that was the best part,” Accommazzo said. “Our LEADs are very passionate about what they do in there and why they are doing it, and John is also a very empathetic person. So to see them together was amazing.”
Maryvale High School Principal Manuel Silvas pointed out the significant ways GCU has been an advancement for the school – from giving its golf team a place to practice at the neighboring GCU Golf Course to promoting a pathway to college and encouraging the high school students to think ahead.
“It’s a positive impact as a whole,” said Silvas. “At Phoenix Union we talk about preparing our students for life, and it’s really giving the kids exposure to what it’s like after high school. We talk about going to college, but when GCU is right up the street from us it becomes a reality.”
Over the last several years, the Learning Lounge has grown exponentially. To date, more than 1,700 students have spent approximately 47,000 hours at the Lounge.
“This had become quite the award-winning program,” said Dr. Tacy Ashby, GCU's Senior Vice President for Strategic Educational Alliances. “The fact that there is an established track record – it feeds into the opportunity for students to be receiving full-tuition scholarships. The public-private partnership with schools and now with the Brewers … it is an amazing story.”
Veres said, “This is about education and community growth. This sends great accolades to the Milwaukee Brewers to look out for the community and allow GCU to rally behind them.”
Construction is scheduled to begin immediately after spring training in 2018, and the expanded and renovated facility is expected to be ready within a year.
Contact Jeannette Cruz at (602) 639-6631 or [email protected]