Pet turtles welcome, but Move-In pace is hare-like

Janelle Talmadge doesn't go anywhere without Turti her turtle, and GCU is no exception.
Janelle Talmadge doesn't go anywhere without Turti her turtle, and GCU is no exception.

Story and photos by Jeannette Cruz Karen Fernau and Laurie Merrill
GCU News Bureau

The freshmen arrived in droves with their parents, refrigerators, family pictures, computers, childhood stuffed animals, TVs and more in tow.

They also arrived at Willow, Acacia and Canyon halls at Grand Canyon University with freshman jitters and dreams for the future.

Monday, the first Move-In day of Welcome Week, is as joyful as it is chaotic. Hellos, goodbyes. Cheering, dancing. Lines of cars on the streets, students waiting for elevators.

The following is a snapshot of what has become a GCU tradition — students helping students at Move-In:

 5 a.m.

Richard Whitehead, a senior marketing major, joins a crowd of 50-plus students gathering outside Willow Hall. Like the others, he wears a GCU purple T-shirt. Like the others, he’s volunteering to help move freshmen into their residence hall. He expects to carry box after box until his arms ache, but all for a good cause.“We know the freshmen will be nervous, and we want to make them feel right at home from their first day," he says. "We do the heavy lifting so students and their parents can have fun. It's the beginning of their whole college experience.”

6:10 a.m.

Freshman Maya Olson is an exception. Instead of moving in, she’s a volunteer mover. A member of the GCU dance club, the Phoenix native moved into Juniper Hall three weeks ago with other dancers to practice performing. Her advice to freshmen is simple: “I’ll tell them to check right away to learn what they forgot to pack. Everyone forgets something.”

6:30 a.m.

Jasmine Alvarenga wanted to be the first to move in to Willow Hall. She got what she wanted. Thanks to early rising parents Fredi and Irene, the freshman pre-med major from Los Angeles is first in line. Waking up early to arrive in line at 5 a.m. was a snap. “I was so excited I didn’t sleep,” she says.

Freshman Jasmine Alvarenga was the first to move into Willow Hall.
Freshman Jasmine Alvarenga was the first to move into Willow Hall.

6:40 a.m.

Lope Shop Director Andy Dunn is sizing up a 20-by-20 spot where Bed Bath & Beyond will set up shop later in the morning for the first three days of Welcome Week.

“We have all hands on deck,” Dunn said, referring to the three Lope shops now open — The Lope Shop on Lopes Way, the Team Shop at GCU Arena and the one-week-old Hotel Shop at Grand Canyon University Hotel.

“Nothing is the same as it was last year,” he says. “We have 10 times the merchandise.”

7 a.m.

For Jillian Mitchell, a freshman history major from Corona, Calif., there is nothing surprising about the dozens of student volunteers swarming her car. “I know that being part of a community is what GCU is all about,” she says. “I knew that I would not have to move in alone.”

Curtis Wilson was pleasantly surprised that he would have help moving his son in.
Parent Curtis Wilson was pleasantly surprised by all the help.

7:05 a.m.

Curtis Wilson of Plumas Lake, Calif., was expecting to help his son, Jared, carry all the boxes from their car to his room. Instead, he smiles as energetic students take over the task. Is Wilson surprised? “Yes. Yes," he says. "This reception was so unexpected, but appreciated. I love it.”

7:10 a.m.

With a guitar on her back and stuffed Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh under her arm, Sabrina Woodridge of San Diego waits patiently in the jam-packed Willow lobby. The theater education major says she was both “excited and nervous.”

7:15 a.m.

Janelle Talmadge of Snohomish, Wash. clings to a well-worn turtle pillow as she and her mother, Kelly, followed the energetic coterie of coeds who are hauling the rest of her belongings into Willow Hall. “His name is Turti,” Talmadge says. “He comes on all my vacations, and he sleeps on my bed with me.” Her mother says she was thrilled with the chorus of warm welcomes. “It’s so exciting to be here,” she says.

7:20 a.m.

Shelbey Bissot of Prescott is all grins on the walk to Willow. She, too, clings to a sleeping companion, a furry teddy bear half her size. She laughs at the cheers erupting all around. “It’s crazy,” she says.

Shelbey Bissot, left, holding her teddy bear, and her mother, Shirley, as they walked into Willow Hall.
Shelbey Bissot, left, holding her teddy bear, and her mother, Shirley, in front of Willow Hall.

7:25 a.m.

For Kyle Rodig of Modesto, Calif., Move-In came just in time. “I’m ready. I’m not nervous at all,” says the business administration major, who joins seven high school classmates at GCU.

7:30 a.m.

Madeleine Thomlinson of Newbury Park, Calif., is anxious to meet her two roommates, both from Colorado. “We’ve only met on Instagram. I’m just a little nervous,” she says.

7:40 a.m.

Volunteer shows off his Lope spirit.

Maria Johnson of San Diego is taking a break from moving her daughter, Christine, into her room. “I’m a Christian, and I feel like this is the best,” Johnson says.

9:15 a.m.

Lauren Lentini, a Grand Canyon Beverage Company manager, is busy on the second floor of the Student Union giving away complimentary beverages to parents. How long had they been operating that morning? “Since 4 a.m.,” Lentini says, referring to when two managers came in to brew coffee. The beverages were available to volunteers at 5 a.m.

9:25 a.m.

Volunteer Alexis Delmar, a sophomore and residence hall leader, cools off in between rounds of “luggage lugging” up and down as many as six flights of stairs. “It’s a workout,” she says. “Some cars are harder than others, but the speed carts help a lot.” Accompanying her is fellow volunteer Allison Burchett, also a sophomore, who says, “All of this excitement shows we are a community of excited people." And besides, she says, her legs are getting great conditioning.

Volunteer Matt Kershinar, a senior, liked the workout he got from moving heavy furniture for freshmen.
Volunteer Matt Kershinar, a senior, liked the workout he got from moving heavy furniture for freshmen.

9:40 a.m.

Junior volunteer Brittany Paschall rests briefly on a wall outside Acacia Hall. “I’ve been here since 5 a.m.,” she says. First, she checked in other volunteers and distributed T-shirts and fanny packs before unloading cars and directing parents and students to their destinations. “It’s rewarding to see the next generation of Lopes move in,” she says.

10 a.m.

Sandra Smith drove from Los Angeles to drop off her daughter, Jasmine. Like all the other parents, she is nervous and emotional. “Right now I’m just trying to get her settled, but I think the emotions will kick in once I’m getting ready to go back home,” she says. “But this is for her own good. I’m proud of her.” But for Jasmine, it’s still too soon to think about saying goodbye. “I don’t want to,” she says, standing between her siblings and newborn nephew.

Jasmine Smith, left, and her mother, Sandra, in Acacia Hall.

10:05 a.m.

Volunteers Celena Gammon and Alex Tripp take a break and even take their shoes off inside Acacia Hall after being out since 6 a.m. How are they feeling? “Tired,” they both say. But Gammon, a senior, says she’s giving it all she can.

10:10 a.m.

Volunteers Megan Williams and Diane Jacobs, both juniors, haul a boxed, big-screen TV. Like a lot of volunteers toting heavy furnishings, they say they enjoy it. "I’m helping people. It’s fun and there’s high excitement,” Jacobs says.

Freshman Amanda Acosta holding a bag with her stuffed puppy, which she can't sleep without.

Amanda Acosta brought her stuffed puppy with her — a memory of her grandpa after he won it for her at Six Flags when she was 6 years old. “I had broken my ankle at the time and couldn’t really do much, so my grandpa got it for me to cheer me up,” she says, “and I’ve slept with it ever since.”

10:15 a.m.

Volunteer Matt Kershinar’s arms are wrapped around a bulky, brown foot stool as he prepares to ascend yet another flight of stairs. “It’s a good workout,” he says.

10:18 a.m.

Junior volunteer Makala Arcio echoes the sentiments of many in the cheering, nearly rhapsodic throng of student volunteers: “I feel good. It’s hot, but the excitement level is still high.”

10:20 a.m.

Andrea Hopper of Tennessee can’t stop looking over her shoulder after she dropped off her son, Cody. “I’m a little sad — he’s an only child,” she says. “I hope he comes home often.”

10:25 a.m.

Gammon & Tripp
Volunteers Celena Gammon and Alex Tripp take a break inside Acacia Hall.

Accompanying Katlynn Singletary is her pet fish Jasmine. “She was a gift, and so I had to bring her to college with me,” she said.

10:34 a.m.

Cassandra Brunao of Hawaii arrives, leaving behind two of her closest friends. But before taking off, she had to stop to get donuts for them all to share.

10:45 a.m.

Patricia Espinoza fights to hold back her tears as she watches her son, Michael Goke, move into Acacia Hall. “He’s my baby,” she says. The family drove all the way from Albuquerque, N.M.

10:50 a.m. 

Freshman Katlynn Singletary holds her pet fish, Jasmine.
Freshman Katlynn Singletary holds her pet fish, Jasmine.

Kalley Hayes rests on a wall inside the third floor of Acacia Hall. He is wearing a T-shirt that reads, “Dad with pretty daughter.” Is he ready for his pretty daughter to begin her time at GCU? “No — not at all. She’s been such a great kid. She’s my baby girl,” he says.

11 a.m.

For resident assistants Taylor Browne and Josie Edwards, there is nothing surprising about the wave of emotions and energy. “It has been really good fun,” Browne says after handing out the 40th set of room keys. “We had the whole softball team come and cheer on the incoming athletes.”

11:07 a.m.

Despite the dripping sweat, volunteer Karsten Kem is all smiles on his walk along Acacia Hall. He poses to show off his antelope hat. “I’ve worn this thing the whole time,” he says.

Caretha Bussey, left, kisses her younger sister, Maylani goodbye.

11:17 a.m.  

For Maylani Bussey, it’s a warm feeling having her siblings and her favorite pillow with her at Move-In. “My parents would’ve probably been so stressed out doing this,” she says. Older sister Caretha is excited to share the moment. “It’s really epic because we’re 11 years apart, and so I feel like I’m her mom,” she says.  

11:25 a.m.

Kelsey Cardiel of Newport Beach, Calif., makes quite the entrance when she pulls up in her sparkling blue Fiat 500 — all by herself. “It was a long drive and there were stages of thoughts,” she says. “There were times I just wanted to jump out of the car because I was so tired, but I’m here! It’s exciting to finally be here.”

Contact Jeannette Cruz at 602 (639)-6631 or [email protected].

Contact Karen Fernau at (602) 639-8344 or [email protected].

Contact Laurie Merrill at 602 (639)-6511 or [email protected].


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