COVID-19 halts surprise ceremony — not higher education opportunity
Grand Canyon University surprised 34 more high school seniors from Phoenix and Glendale via Zoom with news that they will receive full-tuition scholarships.
The Students Inspiring Students (SIS) Scholarship is a pay-it-forward initiative that is in its fifth year at the university. It is designed to increase educational opportunities for high-achieving students with limited financial means who seek academic assistance in GCU’s Learning Lounge, a free after-school tutoring and mentoring program. SIS recipients then pay it forward while in college, serving as tutors for the next generation of K-12 students behind them.
A ceremonial surprise unveiling for the 34 recipients was canceled in March due to COVID-19 precautions, so the high school seniors and their families were instead invited to a “final interview” Zoom meeting – where they instead were informed of the emotional news that their college tuition will be fully paid for.
The virtual moments went so well that current GCU students, who are SIS recipients and were enlisted to announce the scholarships remotely, admit it was almost better than the elaborate in-person ruse they usually host — because they could see each individual reaction. “It was nice to bring good news despite everything going on in the world,” said GCU freshman Iris Yanz Arambula.
“This moment made me so proud. Now that I’ve got this scholarship, what else can I do?”
Yareli Orozco, Student
Dr. Joe Veres, GCU’s Vice President of Student Success, said the life-changing announcement comes at a time of uncertainty brought upon by the coronavirus. “GCU knows how challenging these coming weeks and months will be for students and their families. These bright, remarkable young men and women who spent time at the Learning Lounge during their high school career will now thrive on a college campus as an undergrad while receiving the financial boost they need.”
Jacob Lee, a senior at Apollo High School in Glendale, said the virtual announcement “was a crazy moment. It took a burden off my shoulders and my mom doesn’t have to worry how to pay for college. It’s an amazing opportunity.”
Leslie Magallanes, of Glenview College Prep, said it was a special moment she won’t forget, even if it was on a computer screen.
“This moment made me so proud,” added Yareli Orozco, a senior at Metro Tech High School in Phoenix. “Now that I’ve got this scholarship, what else can I do?”
The SIS Scholarship is a collaboration among GCU, local high schools and business and philanthropic leaders. Each year, the University awards full-tuition scholarships to students from inner-city high schools who maintain a minimum 3.5 grade point average, demonstrate financial need and received 100 or more hours of academic assistance in the Learning Lounge.
The surprise announcements bring to 50 the total number of SIS recipients for the 2019-20 academic year. The first group of 16 recipients was awarded in December. The average GPA of the scholarship recipients from 19 different Phoenix-area high schools is 4.1. In addition to the high academic achievement, the recipients also must receive strong recommendations from Learning Lounge Leads (Learning Advocates).
“It’s amazing to see the impact a college student can have on a K-12 student with just a few extra hours of instruction each week in the Learning Lounge,” said GCU President Brian Mueller. “That type of assistance is not always available in inner city homes where parents often work multiple jobs or never graduated from high school themselves because they needed to enter the workforce to provide for their families.
“The other exciting aspect of this initiative is that it lifts up an entire community. The University and its donors are not only investing in a student who will receive a college education, but that student will impact hundreds more K-12 students by serving in the Learning Lounge as a GCU student. Educational opportunities can change the trajectory of a family for generations to come.”
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