Golf tourney provides more shots at SIS grants

Students Inspiring Students scholarship recipients Jocelyn Garcia (second from right) and Brittany Reyes (right) talk with GCU President Brian Mueller (second from left) and other members of the executive team Thursday during the first SIS Golf Classic.

Story by Rick Vacek
Photos by Ralph Freso
GCU News Bureau

The first Students Inspiring Students Golf Classic proved that giving, gratitude and golf go great together.

Dr. Kale Gober, Director of Advancement, welcomes the guests before the start of the tournament, which raised more than $300,000 for the SIS program.

On a beautiful day in the neighborhood Thursday – the same neighborhood that is home to many of the recipients of the full-tuition scholarship to Grand Canyon University – donors enjoyed the immaculate fairways and greens of GCU Golf Course and several SIS students got to see how golf is played … or, in many cases, misplayed.

But it was all in good fun for a good cause. The event drew the full complement of 36 teams and raised more than $300,000, which equates to adding 40 to 50 scholarships to the 545 that have been awarded in a program that has raised more than $4 million.

“You look around the neighborhood and you see that these kids come from right here – this is where the impact is being made,” said Dr. Kale Gober, GCU’s Director of Advancement. “There’s no better place to have the inaugural tournament than right here.”

David Adame, President and CEO of Chicanos por la Causa, watches his shot.

GCU co-hosted the tournament with Chicanos por la Causa, and Pacific Office Automation was the title sponsor. The missions of both organizations fit perfectly with GCU President Brian Mueller’s goal of 800 SIS recipients.

“This means so much to our community,” Chicanos por la Causa President and CEO David Adame told the assembled golfers before the tournament. “It’s about giving an opportunity to people who normally wouldn’t have had that opportunity.

“That’s the vision of Chicanos por la Causa – empowering lives. And in this case we’re going to empower young students to have a chance to get a great education at a great university.”

Garcia and Reyes (from left) enjoyed hanging out at the eighth tee.

Pacific Office Automation’s motto is “problem solved,” and Regional Vice President Adam Pritchett sees the SIS program as a problem-solver, for sure.

“We take a lot of pride in giving back to our local community,” he said. “It’s obviously an honor to be able to support such a good cause that GCU and CPLC support. They’re able to grab these students who otherwise might not be able to get a college education. That cause is a big deal to us.”

Eight SIS students were stationed, two apiece, at the four par-3s on the course to interact with golfers and just take in the perfect weather. It also was a perfect reminder of how much their lives have changed the last few years – especially for senior Brittany Reyes.

Garcia and Reyes (from left) also got to do something they hadn't experienced -- watch golf up close.

A little more than three years ago, when she was a senior at Apollo High School, Reyes was coming to the campus when the minivan in which she was a passenger was T-boned by a speeding car in front of the main GCU entrance on Camelback Road. She was in a coma and in intensive care for two days, and when she came out of it she was disoriented.

“What happened?” she asked her mother.

“The accident.”

“What accident?”

Miraculously, Brittany didn’t have a single broken bone even though the car hit her side of the car. She still doesn’t remember the collision, but it had a major impact on her life – she had planned to go into pre-med but switched to a Christian studies major instead.

The scholarship gave Reyes (right) an avenue to college, and then her near fatal accident gave her reason to change her focus.

“I grew up Christian, and that really changed my perspective,” she said. “I was like, ‘Well, life is short, and you never know.’ And there’s nothing I’d like to do more than serving people and serving God.”

How she will serve changed, too. She originally wanted to become a missionary, but her Christian studies classes convinced her to aim for a master’s and a doctorate. She’d like to teach at the collegiate level.

Reyes and her fellow spectator at the eighth hole, freshman Jocelyn Garcia, are first-generation college students, typical of SIS recipients. Garcia showed her ingenuity by taking cosmetology classes while in high school at Metro Tech, and she plans to use her business entrepreneurship degree to open a salon.

Derek Coles (rear, left) and Kevin Nguyen (rear, right) are thankful for the SIS scholarship.

On the opposite side of the course, SIS recipients Derek Coles and Kevin Nguyen viewed the play on the second green. They, too, have stories to tell.

Coles, a freshman, talked about his goal of going back to his alma mater, Thunderbird High School, to teach after he completes his degree in secondary education and history. The SIS scholarship makes it possible.

“It’s a full blessing,” he said. “I couldn’t be any more grateful to everybody who donated money to get me to the position I’m in. It takes a load off of our family. It really does.”

Nguyen, who still can’t get over the day he learned he was being granted the scholarship, is studying criminal justice. That seemed like a longshot a few years ago.

Mueller's goal is 800 SIS recipients, and the program is already about two-thirds of the way there.

“It has allowed me to continue my education,” he said. “There was a time in high school when I wasn’t sure if I was going to go to college, and they basically gave me that opportunity.”

Both have gotten involved in campus activities. Coles particularly enjoys the Havocs and was in the student cheer section at the men’s basketball game the night before, and Nguyen is a big fan of the GCU Esports Arena.

Mueller was talking about the SIS program when he said, “This golf tournament is going to help us keep that going,” but it’s about so much more than an education.

Opportunity … knowledge … campus activities … a new life. Maybe some of them will even become golfers someday, and they might look back at a sun-splashed day on the links and say that it’s one more thing GCU gave them.

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

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Related content:

Press release: GCU, Chicanos por la Causa hot inaugural Students Inspiring Students Golf Classic

GCU Today: Grateful SIS scholarship recipients warm Arena

GCU Today: It’s all about the family for SIS scholarship winners

GCU Today: SIS scholarship winners make their parents proud

GCU Today: SIS scholarships provide hope to more families

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