Move-In, Day 2: The happiness is a joy to behold

Compiled by the GCU News Bureau

Happiness is contagious, studies show. But whoever did those studies could have saved a lot of money — all they had to do was spend a couple of hours observing what goes on at Grand Canyon University’s Move-In.

Martin Soto of Bakersfield, Calif., had never seen GCU before Tuesday morning. Asked his first impression, he replied, “All the happy people, especially for so early in the morning.”

Happy students is a given, considering that they actually volunteered to get up at the crack of dawn and unload cars for hours in the summer heat. But the contagion happily spreads to the parents.

“I’m very impressed with the way this went. Nice job. Thank you,” Bill Martin of Vancouver, Wash., said after watching the parade of students get his son Harrison moved into Willow Hall. “Everybody here is very friendly, very helpful. You’re just walking around and they ask, ‘Do you know where you’re going?’”

Where Harrison was going was quite a process before he chose GCU. He’s a lacrosse player and considered 10 schools, including Notre Dame and the major universities in Washington and Oregon.

Harrison’s older brother, Nelson, goes to another university, and Bill was struck by the difference between that experience and what he saw at GCU — both while moving in Tuesday and just strolling around campus the day before.

When Nelson moved in at the other school, Bill said, “we moved in our own luggage, and there was no staff around to ask how it’s going. But here, even as we just walked up the middle of campus yesterday, people were happy and excited about what was going on. It’s a consistent theme. I just couldn’t believe it.”

One of the best sights of Move-In is the disbelieving parents taking videos of the scene with their cellphones as the student volunteers scream, yell and get their Lopes Up.

“I can’t wait to show this video to my friends,” said Teresa Emrich of Farmington, N.M., after she and her husband, Scott, moved in their daughter Nicole. “It’s fantastic. We’re completely thrilled with the whole process. The kids are all so pleasant.”

One parent did have to carry something, but he had a good reason. Troy Stelling of Denver couldn’t help but laugh as he carried his son Micah’s small fish tank, filled with water. “This is what dad does,” he said.

The two goldfish inside were oblivious to all the hoopla as they swam around — happily, of course.

—Rick Vacek

Leaving bunk beds behind, but taking memories along

When Carla Kellie returns to her Topock, Ariz., home this evening, ending a tiring eight-hour round-trip drive and an emotional leaving behind of her two daughters’ at GCU, she may wander into the girls’ bedroom.

Kellie might notice two missing items: a multicolored baby blanket with bears and rabbits, and Charlie, a Build-a-Bear monkey. The much-loved mementos came to Phoenix with the 18-year-old twins.

Everything else — the bunk beds, the knickknacks, the books and the curtains — will be as is. And shall stay that way.

“I’ve been through the ‘boo-hoos’, and now I’m at the point of ‘Let’s just do this, let’s

get it started,’” Kellie said. “I’m going to leave their room just as it is, I’m not going to tear their beds apart. I mean, how do you do that?”

Sidney Rascon, an English major who plans to become a high school teacher, and Madison Rascon, a student in the College of Nursing and Health Care Professions, are among 6,500 students moving onto campus this week. Sidney and Madison, part of a large number of freshmen in GCU’s Honors College, are living in Ironwood Hall in The Grove.

In May, the Rascon sisters graduated from River Valley High in Topock, a small community more than 200 miles northwest of Phoenix on the Arizona-California border between Bullhead City and Lake Havasu City.

Sidney “fell in love” with GCU during a campus visit over her spring break after laying eyes on its beauty and feeling welcomed by a friendly, happy staff. “We would have gone to college somewhere, but we only thought about GCU,” she said.

Madison was sold on GCU for its nursing college’s stellar reputation and its Christian foundation. Those attributes were important to her because she both beat leukemia as a preschooler, with encouragement and healing from her oncology nurse, and became a Christian then, too.

“It was a good time because our family got saved,” Madison said of a lasting takeaway from a terrifying experience of chemotherapy and spinal taps. “My nurse was so kind and caring — you could tell she loved her patients. I want to have an impact on people so that they know somebody cares for them.”

The sisters will miss curling up with their Mom to watch old programs — “Little House on the Prairie” and “The Waltons,” among others — on TV. As best friends, they will have the best person to turn to if they become homesick this semester.

Kellie is left to prepare as best she can.

“I definitely feel like they are in good hands and they are safe,” she said. “And I want them to feel that GCU is their home. My wish for them is that they will feel comfortable, peaceful, at home.”

—Janie Magruder

Acacia Hall feels like home to ‘baby’ of family

Even though she’s more than 1,700 miles from her hometown of Cedar Lake, Ind., GCU freshman Danae Mollema said she feels at home at Acacia Hall.

Maybe it’s because she shares her third-floor, two-bedroom suite with five other girls. For Danae, it feels natural to live in a crowd. She is the youngest of five children, and her siblings, who range in age from 26 to 20, plus two young nieces, all live with her parents in their six-bedroom house.

Maybe it’s because her dorm is near her grandparents’ home in Surprise.

But the main reason she’s happy to be at GCU is the quality of the school. “It’s so cool. It was affordable. It’s pretty. There are new dorms,” Danae said.

Her parents, Lauri, 49, and Brent, 55, spent time with their daughter Monday in her new room, helping arrange the beds and the desks and setting up the suite.

For Danae, who plans to major in psychology, GCU offers the chance to continue doing the kinds of good works she did in high school. “I went on lots and lots of missions,” she said.

Lauri feels more relaxed about leaving her daughter at GCU because of its Christian foundation. “We share the same family values as the University,” she said.

The idea of their baby living halfway across the country does tug on the heart, even if it reduces to eight the number of people living in their home.

“I’m glad she’s excited about being here,” Brent said.

 —Laurie Merrill

Youngest quadruplet goes away to school, but not too far

A little more than 18 years ago, Maddie Magoon was born last, after her three (barely) older brothers, Matt, Mike and Mitch, and her parents immediately made a joke.

“We laughed the minute she was born and said she would go to the University of Alaska for college, as far away as she could go to get away from her brothers,” said Maddie’s mom, Vicki, of Aurora, Colo.

But Maddie kept her search to the lower 48 states, looking at small schools in Michigan, Maryland and Nebraska. And then she heard from a close friend and fellow lacrosse player about the great coach and players in GCU’s program.

“I was a tomboy growing up, hanging out with my brothers and their friends, and I got into lacrosse because they played,” said the freshman nursing student who moved into Willow Hall in The Grove this morning.

Her dad, Mark, and Mitch, accompanied Maddie on the drive down from the Denver suburb. Vicki was on a separate trip to Greeley, Colo., to move Matt into a dorm at the University of Northern Colorado.

It’s always been “divide and conquer” for the two parents who became doubly outnumbered on March 20, 1997, when the quadruplets were born. Mother and daughter are mourning their temporary separation.

“I’m excited to go and experience something different,” Maddie said. “But it’s sad to leave because Mom and I have been buddies — we’re the two girls — and you gotta stick together.”

Vicki is happy that her baby girl chose GCU in Arizona, rather than one of those other “A” states, that close friends live in Scottsdale and that Maddie already has a small network of athlete/friends at GCU.

And she’s so glad that Mike, who is attending the University of Denver, and Mitch, who chose Metropolitan State University, also in Denver, are living at home, at least for a little while.

“I’ve had overwhelming moments in the shower when I’ve actually cried,” Vicki said about two of her children leaving the nest. “But they are ready to fly on their own, and that’s a good thing. They have four very different personalities, and they want to be their own people. We’re continuing to count our blessings.”

—Janie Magruder

She brought her high school family with her — from Minnesota

It’s not uncommon for multiple students from one high school to attend GCU, but these numbers are pretty amazing: Four students from Park Christian High School in Moorhead, Minn., are among the 7,000 new students moving in this week. Park Christian’s graduating class last spring? Twenty-nine. And Moorhead, located just east of Fargo, N.D., is a considerable distance from Phoenix — exactly 1,718 miles.

So how did almost 15 percent of the class wind up here? The credit goes to Kaylee Schultz.

After Schultz, an honors student who will major in worship ministry, applied at GCU, she started talking it up among her classmates. And one thing you quickly learn about Schultz is that when she gets excited about something, she really gets excited about it.

“The first time I stepped on campus I said, ‘This is where I’m going to be,’” she said.

Her senior year of high school was filled with similarly definitive ideas.

Schultz saw the need for a worship group at Park Christian, so she took it upon herself to make it happen.

“Your senior year is supposed to be your best year of high school. I was super on fire, and I just flipped a switch in my mind,” she said. “I prayed on it, and God told me, ‘Nothing’s going to change until you do something about it.’

“Once we got it going, I saw great things out of that. I saw people getting closer to God.”

Keep in mind that while starting the group, Schultz also was in the process of learning how to play four musical instruments: the piano, banjo and two types of guitar. She wrote an essay that earned third place in a statewide competition. And, finally, she won a Dove Award, given to the boy and girl who exhibit the most spiritual leadership at Park Christian.

The male winner of the award was Josiah Militzer. Guess where he’s continuing his education? If you guessed GCU, you understand the influence of Kaylee Schultz.

—Rick Vacek

After two cruel twists, he recruits for GCU

Josh Truesdell’s father, David, is a youth pastor. His mother, Rachel, is the guidance counselor at his high school, Woodland (Calif.) Christian. And when they visited GCU during his senior year, Josh wasn’t the only one who was sold.

“Everyone in my family absolutely loved it,” he said. “It’s affordable. It’s a Christian education — that’s No. 1. It’s the best of every world. I’m so lucky. I wanted to share it.”

And not only did the Chancellors Scholar (4.0 GPA) start telling his friends about it, his parents became advocates, too. Two of his former sports teammates will be living on the same floor with him in Willow Hall, and Josh said he’s actively recruiting another eight students from a school where the 2015 graduating class was only 45.

But Josh’s journey to GCU had one very important twist: His athletic career has been derailed by two serious knee injuries.

As a junior at Woodland Christian, while playing linebacker for the football team, he tore the medial collateral ligament in his knee in  September and was in a wheelchair until late November.

Then, as the quarterback in his senior year, he tore the anterior cruciate ligament early in his first game. Once again, his season was over. But he chose not to have surgery, and he fully intends to play intramural football at GCU even though he’ll have to wear a bulky brace.

“It’s one of those things where people say, ‘Everything happens for a reason,’ and you don’t want to hear it,” said Truesdell, who will major in biology and hopes to become a physician's assistant. “But I realize now this was a good thing for me, and GCU is a big part of the reason.”

—Rick Vacek

Tucson freshman makes family history as first college student

Tuesday marked an historical — and emotional — day for the De La Torre family of Tucson, as eldest daughter Marissa became the first ever to attend college.

The 18-year-old justice studies major has five siblings, ages 2-15, and wants to set an example to her younger siblings that college is achievable. She attended a small high school and landed an internship at a local hospital where she earned college credits.

De La Torre admitted that being the first college student is a lot of pressure, but said the activity-packed six-day Welcome Week has made her forget about it for the time being. She moved into Willow this morning and is excited to attend the Night at the Movies event on Wednesday and the free Phillip Phillips concert on Saturday.

Her entire family has confidence she will succeed and set a precedent that members of the De La Torre family attend — and graduate — college. De La Torre said GCU was the perfect first college because of its small class sizes and hands-on justice studies program.

“My family is very excited and it makes it easy that they have confidence and faith in me that I’ll succeed,” she said. "It’s awesome being here and not only being the first in my family to go to college but be a part of the biggest freshman class and Welcome Week."

—Cooper Nelson

Welcome Week hospitality extends to nearby GCU Hotel

The new Grand Canyon University Hotel is putting the “welcome” in Welcome Week.

From Sunday to today, occupancy at the recently-opened hotel jumped from five to 100 percent as thousands of incoming students and their families descended on campus for Move-In. They came from as near as California and Colorado and as far as Kansas, Ohio, Idaho, even Canada. Many showed up around midnight and stayed just long enough to move onto campus or rest from long trips. On Tuesday alone, the hotel had 45 people check in and 45 check out.

Brett Cortright, hotel general manager, and his staff experienced some expected growing pains associated with the large number of guests. But the vast majority have enjoyed their stay so much they’ve already booked future rooms. All 10 suites and all but one junior suite (30 total) already are booked for Family Weekend in October.

“It’s been a challenge but I think families are seeing the value,” Cortright said. “We respect that these parents are putting their kids through an education, and we’re going to show them value at a low cost.”

Like the hotel, Cortright is experiencing his first Welcome Week. Around midnight yesterday, he broke down in tears while talking to a mother whose daughter was leaving home for college for the first time. As a father of two young children (6 and 8), Cortright said he understood her sadness.

Cortright has made some adjustments to make sure all guests are enjoying their stay. He changed breakfast starting time from 7 to 6 a.m. for early movers and hired 10 extra temporary employees to help with laundry and room cleaning. Yesterday, staff handed out cold towels and water for guests traveling long distances or those not yet adjusted to the Arizona heat.

The hotel is an extension of Welcome Week and offering quality service is just the ‘GCU way,’” Cortright said.

“GCU attracts a great crowd and we’re really blessed to have them,” he said. “We going to adjust and serve them in the best way possible.”

Now that’s service.


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