By Bob Romantic
GCU News Bureau
Many students have had an impact on Brian Mueller since he became Grand Canyon University's chief executive officer in 2008.
He shared the stories of three in particular on Friday when GCU was honored by the Aguila Youth Leadership Institute during a luncheon at the Arizona Biltmore.
Jessica Reyes was a Centennial High School student with a 3.9 GPA. No one in her family had ever been to college, and she went through high school thinking higher education was unattainable.
“Three years later, Jessica graduated from GCU with a 3.95 GPA in pre-med,” Mueller said.
Johnathan Labrada and Gerson Gonzalez had a dream of going to college that was seriously challenged when their parents were deported. They stuck it out through high school, scraped by living on their own, “and today they are both juniors (at GCU) and both have GPAs above 3.5,” Mueller said.
When Grand Canyon University became a publicly traded company in 2008, a decision had to be made on where to invest that capital – on its west Phoenix campus or possibly in a more affluent area. Mueller said students such as Reyes, Labrada and Gonzalez reaffirm every day that the decision to stay in west Phoenix was the right one.
“We are very excited to be in our neighborhood,” Mueller told the Aguila audience. “When you spend time in that neighborhood, you realize that those kids are our most important assets. They are students with 3.7, 3.8 and 3.9 GPAs who can make a difference.
“They will help us one student at a time, one graduate at a time, to revitalize that neighborhood. With our partnerships with Aguila and the city of Phoenix, working together, we can get a big majority of them through high school, get them in college and keep them in Arizona.”
Rosemary Ybarra-Hernandez, CEO of Aguila, praised GCU for its commitment to children, community and higher education.
“I can’t thank GCU enough for the way they care for our children,” Ybarra-Hernandez said. “What’s really interesting is the changes that happen to those students when they attend GCU. They are more into community, they are more spiritual, they are more giving.”
Others honored at the luncheon, which included keynote speaker Richard Montanez of PepsiCo, were:
- Olga Aros, who established eLatinaVoices to bring Latinas and women together to fight against birthright citizenship legislation.
- Zarco Guerrero and Carmen de Novais-Guerrero, who have dedicated their artistic endeavors to create positive social change through the arts.
- Ruben Aguilera, who shared an emotional story about being an Aguila graduate and completing his bachelor of science degree in family and human development from Arizona State University.
Aguila Youth Leadership Institute, founded in 2004, has helped nearly 1,200 youth who aspire to college and create positive change in the world.
Contact Bob Romantic at 639.7611 or [email protected].