New Learning Lounge is a study in roominess

Photos by Ralph Freso Slideshow

Visitors are welcomed to the open house event for the new GCU Learning Lounge on Friday.

The anticipation of a new school year fills Grand Canyon University’s Learning Lounge more than ever thanks to its larger, more open space.

Located near 27th Avenue and Camelback Road, the space in Building 66 was filled with families eager to see the new layout at its open house Friday. The face-painting line filled up fast, right next to the balloon guy, who was most noted for giving the children one sword for each hand.

Frida Lopez (left) and Rebeka Magana are two of the GCU students who serve as learning advocates (LEADs).

The interactive games were supported by the learning advocates (LEADs) in purple GCU polos and the volunteers in purple GCU shirts. Parents laughed and smiled while watching their children have fun. The music blended perfectly with the roomful of childhood joy.

Nearly a decade after its launch, the new Learning Lounge provides a more accessible location. It has its own parking lot. It has couches. But, most importantly, it has more space.  

“The kids are why we do this,” said Rebeka Magana, a green balloon monkey sitting on her right shoulder.

She is a first-generation Students Inspiring Students scholarship recipient returning for her third year as a LEAD. “I’ve noticed that the kids are so much more comfortable here. They are comfortable being themselves and being loud and outgoing. We have such a bigger area for families, too, so not only are we allowing kids to be more comfortable, the families are also more comfortable here. It’s such a rewarding job, seeing the impact in the community.”

Historically, the Learning Lounge focused on scholastic learning and tutoring, but now the focus is “the whole child” – their psychological and their social needs along with scholastic support, said Shari Stagner, Director of K12 Outreach.

A young visitor liked what he saw..

“Especially coming off this pandemic, because a lot of kids were isolated and there’s a whole host of things that are coming out of that,” she said. “We want to provide those opportunities to associate with each other in a setting that is fun and supportive and not about school.”

The Lounge is staying true to its scholastic efforts by keeping a math, English and science classroom, but it also has added a game room.

To recognize the students’ social, psychological and physical needs, the Learning Lounge is partnering with Youth Soccer Ministries every Thursday starting Sept. 15. The teamwork of kicking around a soccer ball is part of the learning process, too.

There also will be a collaboration with the College of Arts and Media to cover a currently unpainted Learning Lounge wall. Students will be involved in the process by brainstorming and pitching ideas while also learning how painting can be done in digital media. They even will participate in the final transfer of the wall.

Mario Barron reacts after getting a whipped cream pie in the face -- another fun (but messy) activity for the visiting students at the open house..
Soleil Barron worked the face painting booth2.

Mario Barron and his sister Soleil, both seniors at GCU, showing their excitement as LEADs for the Learning Lounge opening. 

“We’re kinda like big brother, big sister role models. We try our best to exemplify our best qualities on the students,” Mario said. 

During his senior year in high school, Mario had tutors at the Learning Lounge he considered role models. Now he is giving back by mentoring students himself.

“It feels great to have my team have my back,” he said. “It’s great to know that they support me, and I support them. This is a place where everyone can be themselves and help with school.”

Painting a mushroom on a girl’s cheek, Soleil said, “I hope it brings more kids in. We had a lot of struggles making sure that kids had a place to get tutored in a space where they wouldn’t get distracted. If they want to be around other kids and not feel alone, it helps to have a space like this where there are open windows and open classrooms.”

Some students took advantage of the time to get work done in one of the study rooms.

All around the Learning Lounge on Friday, mothers said hi to one another in a place where their children can learn and have fun.

The English classroom already was occupied by young students on their laptops, discussing their homework. It brought a sense of pride to Stagner and the LEADs – they didn’t anticipate that anyone would use the classrooms at the open house.

It made the anticipation that much more rewarding.

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Related content:

GCU News: LEADs led the way in virtual Learning Lounge

GCU News: Learning Lounge offers virtual academic support

GCU News: Brewers Learning Lounge celebrates opening day

GCU News: GCU Learning Lounge Now Open and Helping Alhambra Students

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