SIS scholars capitalize on visit to state Capitol

Arizona State Rep. César Chávez (D-Maryvale) speaks with Grand Canyon University Students Inspiring Students scholar Iris Yanez-Arambula on the House floor during a visit to the Arizona State Capitol on Monday.

Story by Lana Sweeten-Shults
Photos by Ralph Freso
GCU News Bureau

Chávez and state Rep. Beverly Pingerelli (R-Peoria), a science program coordinator at GCU, visit with students.

Chelsey Segovia wants to work for the FBI.

“I want to investigate bigger crimes. I like the sense of investigating, like ‘What happened?’ ‘Who did this?’” said the Grand Canyon University freshman justice studies major and Students Inspiring Students scholarship program recipient.

But first, baby steps.

Segovia, a cadet in the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office Cadet Program, is eyeing a career in law enforcement, her first step in preparing for that dream job in the FBI.

So when she heard that Dana Drew Shaw, the University’s Director of Government Relations, invited SIS students to visit the Arizona State Capitol, she was in.

“I just wanted to learn more about the House and how bills are passed,” Segovia said.

She wasn’t the only one who was in.

So was fellow SIS scholar Frida Lopez, a freshman risk management major who’s minoring in math.

Lopez, whose aunt is an insurance broker, wants to be an actuary, the professionals in the industry who calculate insurance risks, price policies and the like.

Students watch the session from the gallery.

“As an actuary, you need to know a lot of policy law, so it made sense for me to be involved (in the Capitol trip),” said Lopez, who’s also part of the Honors College’s five-week Public Square Series, a series of professional development and leadership seminars on policies and politics.

Segovia and Lopez were just two of almost 20 SIS students who made the trek to the downtown Capitol, where Arizona Rep. César Chávez (D-Maryvale) introduced the students and the SIS program before they watched the afternoon session of the House of Representatives on Monday. (Here's a slideshow.)

“It’s a day for our students to just observe the proceedings from the gallery,” said Megan Serafini, the scholarship program’s director.

“They’re from all different disciplines, which I love,” Shaw said of those attending. “It’s a civic duty, and we need people from different fields to know what to do on different issues.”

Chávez added, “It’s amazing having young individuals here who could potentially be tomorrow’s leaders.”

Chávez himself came a long way from his roots in the small town of Moroleón, Guanajuato, Mexico, where he was born. He was just 3 years old when he and his parents immigrated to the United States, undocumented and with no money, eventually making their way Maryvale.

His parents knew education was the way to a better life. So Chávez earned his bachelor’s degree from GCU, like the students in SIS are aiming to do.

Chávez gazes up to the gallery and applauds the students after introducing them.

Scholars in the program sought academic assistance from the University’s Learning Lounge when they were high school students and received full-tuition neighborhood scholarships.

“All of these students are from the community I grew up in,” Chávez said at an SIS scholarship reception in October, expressing how the program allows the west Phoenix community “to feel like we have a spot in higher education.”

Since 2016, the University has awarded 545 SIS scholarships, with the first students of the program graduating in spring 2019. Currently, 329 SIS scholars are enrolled at GCU.

Jesus Miranda, an SIS scholar and senior justice studies student, wants to become a police officer, like Segovia, and wanted to be part of the trip to the Capitol because he has always been interested in government, “helping people and making change.”

His favorite part of the trip: “I loved seeing how everything functioned, in a sense, how they said ‘yay’ and ‘nay,’” he said.

SIS scholar Iris Yanez-Arambula, a junior elementary education/Spanish student, said that what goes on in legislative sessions determines what goes on in the classroom, and so she always has her ears open when it comes to education legislation.

The scholars stand as they are introduced.

“And I’m taking Government 260 (Arizona Constitution and Government). I wanted to get an idea of how it actually is rather than just getting it from the professors,” Yanez-Arambula said.

Sisters Delia Patino and Ana Patino received SIS scholarships in 2021. Their brother works for Aliento, a nonprofit that advocates for those impacted by the inequalities of lacking an immigration status. Their brother worked on legislation to repeal an in-state tuition ban for undocumented students, so Delia and Ana have been to the Capitol before and are attuned to what goes on in the legislature.

“It’s a good experience to see how everything works in government,” Delia, an accounting sophomore, said of Monday’s visit.

Ana, a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipient and mom of four studying business management, said she has a daughter who’s very involved in politics, “and I want to learn a little bit more and share it with her.”

About 20 SIS scholars attended the trip to the Capitol.

A highlight for Brianna Castro, who will graduate in April with her degree in English for secondary education, was meeting Chávez.

“It’s always such an awesome experience to hear about the amazing heights GCU alumni have gotten to,” Castro said. “For me, it is a motivator. Knowing that someone of my social and economic background can have such an impact on the community shows me that I am capable of doing the same. It was a great reminder to myself to never settle and always surpass the ‘limits’ society sets.”

Serafini said that having SIS scholars interact with leaders who come from their neighborhood, such as Chávez, is “beyond meaningful.” One of the aims of the program is to develop leaders, and “seeing an incredible one in action, I know, was memorable to them all.”

“As a former student at GCU, we never really know where our life is going to take us next,” Chávez said, “and so I’m really excited to see what all these young ladies and gentlemen are going to embark on.”

GCU senior writer Lana Sweeten-Shults can be reached at [email protected] or at 602-639-7901.

Related content:

GCU Today: It's all about the family for SIS scholarship winners

GCU Today: Grateful SIS scholarship recipients warm Arena

GCU Today: Scholarship winner eager to give back to community


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