Students get moved in and plugged in to GCU life

Parents pushed more than a few Speed Paks during Grand Canyon University's Move-In Monday morning.

Photos by Ralph Freso

Ludy Orellana didn’t hold back.

Rolling by Grand Canyon University’s Thundering Heard Pep Band, which was filling the normally serene 6 a.m.-sunshine-infused Phoenix air with music, he pumped his fist out his driver’s-side window and bopped his head to the music.

“Whoo!!! YEAH!!!” the Long Beach, California, dad of freshman Kristen Orellana yelled exuberantly Monday morning outside of Acacia Hall as he started unloading the family’s truck, packed with the essentials – clothes, hamper, mini fridge – during the first hours of Move-In today.

The event traditionally kicks off the machine that is Welcome Week, a figurative campuswide hug, so to speak, for students. It's jam packed with more than 60 activities, not counting repeat activities, spanning through Sunday. Although, in reality, festivities dot the campus calendar through Labor Day week, including the return of a Welcome Week concert Sept. 4 that will feature former “The Voice” contestant Jordy Searcy.

Ludy Orellana wasn't just excited about Move-in and Welcome Week. He was super excited. No. He was uber excited. And, he was Lopes-ready, the pep band made sure of it.

Welcome Crew student volunteers cheer on incoming families as they arrive at The Grove during Move-In.

The family started its trek to Phoenix from Long Beach, just five hours away, on Sunday.

“We wanted a Christian college not too far from home,” said mom Keren.

“She’s 18, my youngest. ... It’s just exciting,” dad added, gob-smacked by the whole experience of Move-In, which will see many of the University's more than 25,800 ground students living in the campus' 32 residence halls.

Minnesotan Amy Sullivan, who was helping son Alec move into Willow Hall after a four-day road trip to Arizona, also was flabbergasted by the experience.

High today in Minnesota? 85 degrees. High today in Phoenix? 113 degrees.

Despite the heat, Sullivan said she, too, was thrilled for her son on Move-In day, even though he was moving so far from home: “He was just ready for a new adventure," she said.

Claire Creager, a freshman from California, was as Lopes-ready as she could be, toting along a few boxes filled with dozens of packs of ramen noodles.

“I will NOT be going hungry,” she said with a smile as her sister’s roommate, Army ROTC nursing major Reagann Caves, rolled out of bed at 6 a.m. to help Creager’s family move her into her room.

ASGCU student body president Jagaar Halverson walks with GCU President Brian Mueller on the first day of Welcome Week.

Creager won't be going hungry, but she also won't be lonely.

She chose GCU because of the academics, “but mostly because of the closeness.”

It’s a closeness sophomore social work major Payton Freiberg conveyed as best as she could as a member of the Welcome Crew, which arrived early at GCU with other student leaders to prepare for Move-In and Welcome Week.

“I really enjoy being on campus. I thought, why not come early and be the first face they see on campus?” Freiberg said. “I moved in at 6 a.m., as well (as a freshman). It was super nice (seeing all the excited Welcome Crew). … It’s stressful moving in. It’s scary.

“I hope they see me on campus and say, ‘Oh my gosh! That’s the person who helped me move in. I want to be that person who’s easy to talk to.”

Director of Welcome Programs Charity Norman, speaking to AZ Family reporter Gibby Parra, shared with him that so many students decide to come to GCU because of its strong sense of community.

“What Welcome Week really is about is getting students plugged into campus,” Norman said.

Parra, just one of several television news crews on campus to capture the excitement of Move-In, told his audience this: “GCU does it the best. They do it the best! … The Lopes are about to tear this up! Let’s go!”

But being at your best can’t always be achieved for those early-morning Move-In appointments without a little energy. Rachel Kist and Lisa Eggebrecht volunteered with Student Affairs to deliver snacks, water, sunscreen – whatever the Welcome Crew needed – to keep the energy high.

They circled around with a golf cart filled with packets of Cheez-Its, Zbars and more. Gatorade, they said, has been popular.

“We want to show them gratitude for all the hard work they’re doing,” said Kist, who shared how the snack cart has been met with cheers.

Jeremiah Park and other members of GCU Cheer get families pumped up during Move-In.

Cheerleader Jeremiah Park, meanwhile, was the source of many a cheer Monday morning at The Grove as students moved in.

Cheer and other Spirit groups have been on campus for a month preparing for the academic year, and it’s been quiet ... until now, he said.

“I’m excited to see everyone from campus and all the events that will be going on,” he said.

Student body president Jagaar Halverson made sure his parents in Iowa, who live in a time zone two hours ahead of Phoenix, called him to wake him up for his go-go-go day.

Sophomore and Thundering Heard Pep Band member Brenna Stewart pumps up the energy at The Grove for families helping their loved ones move in.

He was up at 4:15 a.m. and at The Grove by 5 a.m. for several television interviews. He planned to head to the Associated Students of GCU’s tablings, the College of Humanities and Social Sciences welcome event, and the orientation for the GCU trades program this afternoon.

Besides all the ASGCU events, what he is looking forward to is Wednesday night's Silent Disco, when students dance to music that isn’t audible to anyone not wearing special headphones.

“The classic for me is Silent Disco because I started (my time at GCU) with that my freshman year … and then, of course, Lope-A-Palooza Friday Night.”

The band, Dance, Cheer, Thunder and the Havocs?

They're anticipating the year's big kick-off pep rally that’s all firecracker energy, all the time.

Pep band mellophone player and sophomore Brenna Stewart said the brass line is sharp this year.

Clarinetist Natalie Bourne added, though getting used to a crowded campus again will take some doing, “I’m really excited to meet new people and attend new classes … and I’m hyped for Midnight Madness,” just a couple of months away.

No doubt, she’ll be Lopes-ready.

***

Related content:

GCU News: Concert, bigger crews to whirl into Welcome Week

GCU News: Grand Canyon University expecting record enrollment

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

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