Students display their togetherness in Un1ty Walk

Story by Rick Vacek
Photos by Ralph Freso
GCU News Bureau

They stretched from one end of Lopes Way to the other Tuesday night in the highlight of Un1ty Week at Grand Canyon University – the second annual Un1ty Walk.

Students display their signs before the start of the Un1ty Walk on Tuesday night.

“GCU! GCU!” they shouted over and over in appropriate oneness.

They sang along enthusiastically with the musicians at The Gathering, the weekly worship service that had a special Un1ty Week flair.

Then Donald Glenn shared his singing and dancing skills, and the assembled students chimed in that much louder, sending mounds of sound out the open doors of Antelope Gymnasium.

“Never would I have made it without You,” Glenn, Director of GCU’s Diversity and Inclusion Department, intoned in thanksgiving for what God has done in his life.

Donald Glenn, Director of the Diversity and Inclusion Department, showed that he can sing as well as give an inspiring talk.

“Never would I have made it without You,” the students responded.

“That’s MY story!” Glenn exclaimed, drawing another roar from the crowd.

Clearly, it is theirs, too.

It all was part of the scene as hundreds of students, undaunted by a shower that delayed the walk for 37 minutes, carried flags and signs to display their unity on a campus where 47% of the student population are people of color.

Typical of the turnout were members of the Dance team coming out in big numbers to lend their support.

“We just always love to support GCU in any way possible and especially for such a good cause, trying to bring out awareness and really showing the students that we are proud to say we are a diverse campus,” said Alexis Zertuche, a junior majoring in business management.

The walk was led by the Parade of Nations, with students displaying the flags of their home countries.

Like her teammates, it was Zertuche’s second time on the Un1ty Walk. Same goes for sophomore forensic psychology major Alyssa Brittan.

“We have really crazy schedules, and Donald has been really, really good about telling us about what’s going on so we can be there,” Brittan said.

The Dance team’s recent diversity activities included a workshop with the representatives of the Diversity and Inclusion Department.

“We talked about recognizing our own unconscious bias and whatever that may be,” said one of the Dance team’s captains, senior hospitality management major Anna Ellwein. “It was a really cool thing to do with our team, just to educate us more on unconscious bias and be able to witness that and recognize that within ourselves.”

There even were flags displayed on cellphones.

The walk was filled with athletes and their coaches across the spectrum of GCU sports, many of them wearing “Lead Boldly” T-shirts. It was an example of what the student-athlete leadership team is all about.

“We have great student-athlete leaders, and part of what we wanted to do as a mission this year is to make sure we’re really a part of this GCU community that always supports us in Athletics,” said Jamie Boggs, Vice President of Athletics. “I’m not surprised that they made the decision to come out here and support the Un1ty Walk.”

Also typical of the scene was Victoria Hang proudly carrying the flag of her native Vietnam. She came to the United States as a junior in high school, first living with a family in Colorado, then one in Michigan. A Discover GCU trip steered her to Phoenix, and now she’s a junior majoring in hospitality management.

Thunder contributed to the walk by leading the way and representing antelopes.

“I’m here today to represent my country and student leadership in Welcome Programs,” she said.

Glenn’s talk was influenced by a higher Spirit – the Holy Spirit. He woke up at 3 a.m. one night last week and felt God’s call to change his message. Appropriately, it was about students having a spiritual awakening.

“Just us waking up and not being so caught up in social media, technology … unity focusing on forgiving and loving one another and actually sitting down and having communication,” he said.

Even more appropriately, he drew from Chapter 26 of Matthew’s Gospel, which details the night of the Last Supper – after which the apostles kept falling asleep despite Jesus’ exhortations to remain vigilant.

The crowd pressed in close to the musicians.

Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and He said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with Him, and He began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then He said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with Me.”

Going a little farther, He fell with His face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from Me. Yet not as I will, but as You will.”

Then He returned to His disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with Me for one hour?” He asked Peter. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Glenn urged students to have conversations with people who have different views.

“I wonder how many times God has knocked on your door … but you were sound asleep,” Glenn said. “We can no longer afford to be asleep.”

He also noted that Jesus was intent on fulfilling God’s will even though He knew He would be put to death.

“Sometimes life will present you bitter cups,” Glenn said, “but they have to be swallowed.”

He also told students of his standard procedure when someone comes to his office to complain about what another student said. “Have you talked to them?” he always asks.

“We are easily tempted to judge one another,” he said. “No man can judge another man’s heart. Go and have a conversation.”

Students listen intently to Glenn's talk.

Glenn urged students to treat others with the same grace afforded them by God. When his 20-minute talk was over, the music started up again – Worship Arts student Chris Calderon put the group together and played the keyboards.

“It was a great turnout,” said Glenn, the drums reverberating in the background. “I’m really blessed to be able to have the opportunity to speak to this crowd and talk about what this generation needs to know.”

There are more Un1ty Week events on tap this week:

  • “Diversity of Mind” educational event, 6-7 p.m. Wednesday in Sunset Auditorium
  • Un1ty Runway fashion show, 6-7 p.m. Thursday on the Quad
  • Un1ty Job Fair, 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Friday on the Promenade

It’s all about oneness. Everyone has a story, and Glenn’s goal is to make sure God is right in the middle of it.

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


Related content:

GCU Today: Oneness, cultural inclusion focus of Un1ty Week

GCU Today: Project L: Welcome Week's love letter to diversity

GCU Magazine: GCU's Multicultural Office opens window to diversity


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