Scholarships add to Christmas cheer at tree lighting

GCU student Kylie Amber Buere displays the certificate for her David R. Landau Hospitality Scholarship, awarded during the Christmas tree lighting Tuesday night at Canyon 49 Grill.

Story by Rick Vacek
Photos by Ralph Freso
GCU News Bureau

It wasn’t exactly a big surprise when Kylie Amber Buere got emotional Tuesday night.

She teared up when she learned that she had won a David R. Landau Hospitality Scholarship along with two other Grand Canyon University students, Victoria Hang and Jeremiah Breeden.

Dr. Jennifer Elfenbein, Hospitality Management Chair for the Colangelo College of Business, announces that Buere was one of the scholarship winners.

That matched the tears she shed while writing the essay that earned her the $1,000 award.

And it certainly tracked with what she told Dr. Jennifer Elfenbein, Hospitality Management Chair for the Colangelo College of Business, on the first day of class:

“I’m Kylie, and I’m told that I’m kind of loud.”

Now that she has gotten to know her, Elfenbein fondly calls her “The Firecracker.”

Next spring, “The Firecracker” will join Hang and Breeden in planning a dinner for hospitality students next spring. Elfenbein has no doubt that they’ll do a bang-up job.

“I think it’s great because each one of them has different talents and skill sets, so I think they’ll work really well together,” she said.

The scholarship announcement was part of GCU’s fourth annual Christmas tree lighting at Canyon 49 Grill (see slideshow here). Families decorated cookies, kids young and old visited with Santa, and the hot chocolate with marshmallows was a treat even though the winter chill didn’t invade the bones as deeply as in years past.

Landau was a beloved CCOB instructor who helped get the hospitality program off the ground before he passed away in 2019. Only two scholarships were supposed to be awarded, but the judges were so torn they decided to make it a trio.

Buere, who could have lit up the Christmas tree all by herself with her infectious attitude, hails from Kahului on the Hawaiian island of Maui, famous for its hospitality. She’ll fit right in there, assuming she follows through on her career plan.

A young child isn’t quite sure what to make of Santa during the festivities.

“I want to go back there and teach and influence people about the hospitality industry,” she said. “It’s a good career, especially back home. There are a lot of jobs, and it gives you experience and growth and a lot of knowledge.”

Her parents, both of whom work in the industry, showed her how it’s done, and that’s why she was so emotional about her essay.

“I was really emotional about coming from an immigrant family – oh boy, I’m going to start crying,” she said, fighting back the tears again.

She’s thankful for her parents, who moved to Hawaii from the Philippines and gave her the opportunity to continue her education.

She’s grateful to her professors at the University of Hawaii Maui College, where she earned an associate degree.

She’ll never forget the way a high school teacher provided her with chances to job shadow, go on trips to neighboring islands and work at resorts.

A GCU student shows off her decorated Christmas cookie.

She has done it all, from cashier to cook to prepper to getting the food onto plates. But what moved her more than anything was the way the industry stepped up during the pandemic by handing out free plates of food.

“That showed me so much about being passionate,” she said.

The other two scholarship winners have great stories as well.

Hang, a junior at GCU, came to the United States from Vietnam and lived with families in Colorado and Michigan before a Discover GCU trip turned her on to the glories of the west Phoenix campus.

Breeden, a senior, recently won a $7,500 Doug Yonko Scholarship from the Arizona Loding and Tourism Association.

“They were all excellent,” Elfenbein said of their essays. “The selection committee listed their top three, and they all had the same three.”

CCOB Dean Dr. Randy Gibb also was at the event and said, “A tremendous way to start the Christmas season. The David Landau scholarship is so important for our college and hospitality program, and these three students are ideal to represent what Dave envisioned for this scholarship and program. Love this event at Canyon 49 – the team did a great job!”

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


Related content:

GCU Today: Christmas tree-lighting event offers new hope

GCU Today: Student turns hotel internship into people project


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