It was another big year for community outreach

GCU News Bureau

Giving back to the community is part of Grand Canyon University’s DNA – Devoting Needed Assistance. Students do it regularly. Employees do it regularly. And, time and again, they talk about how much they get out of it.

Today is a day to celebrate what that assistance means and how it plays out. Here are 10 notable examples, in no particular order, of GCU’s community outreach in 2018. Some were covered in GCU Today, and some were suggested by employees:

Students adorn a door before painting it during Serve the City. (Photo by David Kadlubowski)


It was a milestone year for the Canyon Corridor project, in conjunction with Habitat for Humanity Central Arizona: In October, GCU students and staff passed the 200 mark in families served, 450 in repairs and 3,500 in volunteers. (Story) What’s remarkable is that new students keep joining the Saturday morning duties, and they say it’s a big reason they came to GCU. It’s part of the spirit when they dab "GCU" and “Lopes” and draw a miniature antelope on a door before they paint it.

The IT Team really got into its Habitat project.


Not only do students volunteer year-round to help the Habitat project reach those impressive numbers; employees are regulars, too. (Story) Time and again, they talk about how good it makes them feel. Here’s a typical example, courtesy of Jacob Emery: “Our IT team gave time and energy volunteering at Habitat for Humanity projects recently. We helped paint houses and moved over 30 tons of rock between the two different events aiding local community and making a difference in their lives.” More feel goods: The volunteers all get special T-shirts, and the homeowners get their very own GCU gnome.

Students Inspiring Students recipients proudly display their certificates.


In its fourth year, the initiative continues to grant full-tuition scholarships to neighborhood students who demonstrate financial need, maintain a minimum 3.5 grade point average (GPA) and attend 100 hours of tutoring in the Learning Lounge. In return for the SIS scholarship – four years of tuition and books – recipients pay it forward, providing academic support and mentoring in the Learning Lounge for the next group of K-12 students. Here are the stories from the SIS events in November, April and March.

When Westwood needed teddy bears, GCU provided 600.


Thanks to the generosity of numerous donors and the efforts of the K12 Development team under the direction of Dr. Tacy Ashby, GCU donated 600 teddy bears to the K-4 students of Westwood Elementary School. (Their mascot is the teddy bear!) More than 100 other stuffed animals were donated to their preschool students. The teddy bears were distributed to the Westwood students during their annual Polar Express celebration on Dec. 19.

Westwood Elementary is the initial GCU Academic Excellence Site. Comprehensive services from K12 Development, Learning Lounge and GCU’s College of Education are provided, including professional development, teacher residency, parent and student engagement and targeted academic assistance. Here’s a recent story about the work at Westwood, and watch GCU Today for continuing coverage.

The view from inside a car during the Paul's Car Wash event. (Photo by David Kadlubowski)


GCU is a major supporter of the annual event, which began in 2007 and raises money for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Arizona. But it does more than bring the men’s and women’s basketball teams, Cheer, Dance, the Thundering Heard Pep Band and Thunder out to Desert Ridge to help wash cars. (Here’s the story.) Big Brothers Big Sisters representatives also visited campus twice this year, and three GCU male employees became mentors to boys -- a sorely needed gap to fill in the community.

GCU turned out in force for the Back to School Clothing Drive.


K-12 students in need of clothes, backpacks, school supplies and even a dental checkup have been coming to GCU Arena for the last five years. It kicks off with GCU Day, and it was especially poignant this year when it opened the doors to foster children. This year's drive featured a record number of volunteers, which included both employees and student-athletes. Dr. Kimberly LaPrade, Dean of the College of Education, was there every day signing her book, "Thunder's Vision."

Thunder and other mascots lead the way at the start of Run to Fight Children's Cancer. 


The eighth year of the race that encircles campus was big for a lot of reasons, especially the fact that the Children’s Cancer Network took over management of the event. (Story) Watch GCU Today for the January announcement of the 2019 race starter, and how about this for a coincidence: The mothers of the last two race starters went to law school together.

The Ground Enrollment team on its St. Vincent de Paul visit, which serves as its Christmas party.


GCU employees are regulars in the St. Vincent de Paul kitchen and dining room. Here’s a sampling of what it’s like:

“My name is RJ Hatch, and I work in Ground Enrollment with Stephanie Cano as my manager. As a team each year we like to find different ways of serving the community, and this serves as our team’s Christmas party. We focus on giving back and not just celebrating ourselves. I have worked on this team for two years, and each year we have done this. 

“Last week we went to St. Vincent de Paul and served for four hours, preparing lunch, serving and cleaning. We also toured the garden they have there and discovered that every Tuesday and Thursday morning we have a group of students who serve breakfast at this location.

“It is my extreme honor to work for an organization that encourages community service, and I feel especially blessed to work with a team of extraordinary people who all have a greater heart for doing for others.”

Sheila Jones (left) and her family at a Youth for Troops event.


Sheila Jones, Alliance Program Manager, got a lot out of these experiences: “This year my family and I volunteered at a couple of Youth for Troops events (a GCU home-school participant group) helping families send letters to our troops overseas at the Illuminations light event and also held flags at the memorial cemetery for the Wreaths Around America event. GCU does a wonderful job supporting and honoring our troops, and I love how the University boldly professes “God Bless America.” It makes me proud to work for a company like GCU, and the servant leadership culture inspires me to give back! 

Billie Branch (right) at her Operation Harvest event.


Debbie Accomazzo, GCU’s Community Outreach Manager, learned about a project spearheaded by university counselor Billie Branch and wanted to share it. You’ll quickly see why this is the perfect closer for this story:

“I wanted to give you a great report and recap of Operation Harvest! On Nov. 10 at our event for Branch International, we exceeded our goal! We planned for 50 families to receive a Thanksgiving food box and we did 54 full boxes. We had 38 extra bags of food to give out, 17 bags of potatoes, eight cases of melons, and cases upon cases of extra canned goods and miscellaneous food to give away.

“At last count there were 110 families who left with food boxes or food bags/cases. There were 480 bottles of water donated, lots and lots of food -- we served the community fried chicken, nachos, pizza, spaghetti and more than 300 hot dogs, all by donations. We ministered the love and gospel of Jesus Christ to the community, and they received us!

“Who would have thought a high school dropout from Alhambra who grew up in this community living in poverty would change her life by becoming a GCU/GCE Employee, be the first to graduate from a university out of 13 other siblings, have a daughter who is a GCU pre-med student and the Vice President to Branch International, become a minister and change lives! I’m so emotional because of God’s grace and His mercy.”


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GCU Magazine

Bible Verse

David said to Michal, "It was before the Lord, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when He appointed me ruler over the Lord’s people Israel — I will celebrate before the Lord. (2 Samuel 6:21)

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