By Laurie Merrill
GCU News Bureau
Hundreds of Grand Canyon University staff, faculty and students turned out in force Friday morning to welcome the welcomers.
Peppy packs of volunteers gave a rousing Lopes welcome to each arriving student -- so that they, in turn, can do the same for the nearly 11,000 students moving into residence halls during Welcome Week, which starts Monday.
Call it, Welcome Week Lite.
“It’s not as big or chaotic today,” said Brenda Caballeros, who was helping her daughter, Jennifer, a sophomore, move into one of the new, four-bed, two-bath, full-kitchen units in Diamondback Apartments. “It’s a little toned down. But it is still welcoming and exciting.”
The exuberant warmth showered upon the arrivals was like a dress rehearsal for the main event, when the freshman class of 2021 moves into the Grove.
“We have the joy of moving in the early move-ins,” said Nate Carpenter, ASGCU president, who was helping at Diamondback Apartments.
“This is my favorite time of the year,” said ASGCU vice president Matt Shinn. “You have everybody up and it sets the tone for the entire year.”
While it’s been a tradition to spread Lopes love on early arrivals, this year a large number of faculty and staff were also hauling belongings.
“We’ve had a really tremendous response from them,” said Charity Norman, manager of GCU’s Student and Family Program.
Faculty and staff joined students in forming ant-like processions up and down stairs, each carrying over-sized burdens of couches, refrigerators, vacuum cleaners, chairs, lamps, duffel bags and the like.
Of the more than 500 volunteers assisting an estimated 800 students, about 300 were faculty and staff, Norman said. The rest were student leaders such as residence advisers, Canyon Activity Board members and Associated Students of Grand Canyon University.
University Counselor Marie Thorpe said she wanted to help because of the big surge in new students, about 1,200, who are making campus home this year.
“GCU has a really huge percentage of students who live on campus, about 68 percent,” Thorpe said. “That’s really tremendous.”
Bowen Laly, a junior who will don his Welcome Week hat Monday, said he wanted to get in Friday to beat the crowd.
“I think it’s awesome,” Laly said in front of Diamondback. “It’s such a great welcome -- and you guys took all my stuff up for me!”
It was the first time Diana Cheek, a GCU graphic designer, had participated in Move-In.
“This is so much fun,” Cheek said, walking back down the stairs. “There’s so much energy.”
But the most rousing welcome wasn't for incoming students -- it was for GCU President Brian Mueller, who strolled over to Papago to lend a hand and join the fun.
As he approached, every volunteer in the vicinity who wasn't already standing jumped to their feet and the crowd burst into enthusiastic clapping and buoyant cheering.
“It’s exciting that we have students and employees out here helping the volunteers that will help other students all (next) week long feel welcome to the University,” Mueller said.
Contact Laurie Merrill at (602) 639-6511 or [email protected].