SIS scholars enjoy their visit to the State Capitol

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Arizona State Rep. César Chávez (D-Maryvale) speaks with Grand Canyon University Inspirational Student Scholar Iris Yanez-Arambula upstairs at the house during a visit to the Arizona State Capitol on Monday.

Story of Lana Sweeten-Shults
Pictures of Ralph Freso
GCU News Desk

Chávez and State Representative Beverly Pingerelli (R-Peoria), coordinator of the science program at GCU, visit the students.

Chelsey Segovia wants to work for the FBI.

“I want to investigate bigger crimes. I like the sense of inquiry, like ‘What happened?’ ” Who did that ?

But first, small steps.

Segovia, a cadet in the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office Cadet Program, is considering a career in law enforcement, her first step in preparing for that dream job at the FBI.

So when she heard that Dana Drew Shawdirector of government relations at the university, invited SIS students to tour the Arizona State Capitol, where she was located.

“I just wanted to know more about the House and how bills get passed,” Segovia said.

She wasn’t the only one in it.

The same was true for a SIS colleague Frida Lopeza freshman with a major in risk management and a minor in math.

Lopez, whose aunt is an insurance broker, wants to be an actuary, industry professionals who calculate insurance risks, price policies and the like.

The students watch the session from the gallery.

“As an actuary, you have to know a lot of political law, so it made sense for me to be on (the Capitol trip),” said Lopez, who is also part of Honors College’s five-week Public Square series, a series of professional development and leadership seminars on policy and politics.

Segovia and Lopez were just two of about 20 SIS students who made the trip to the downtown Capitol, where Rep. Arizona was. Cesar Chavez (D-Maryvale) introduced the students and the SIS program before they watch the afternoon session of the House of Representatives on Monday. (Here’s a slideshow.)

“It’s a day for our students to simply observe the proceedings from the gallery,” said Megan Serafinidirector of the scholarship program.

“They come from all disciplines, which I love,” Shaw said of the attendees. “It’s a civic duty, and we need people from different fields to know what to do on different issues.”

Chávez added: “It’s amazing to have young people here who could potentially be the leaders of tomorrow.”

Chávez himself has come a long way from his roots in the small town of Moroleón, Guanajuato, Mexico, where he was born. He was only 3 years old when he and his parents immigrated to the United States, without papers and without money, finally going to Maryvale.

His parents knew that education was the way to a better life. So Chávez earned his bachelor’s degree from GCU, as SIS students aim to do.

Chávez looks around the gallery and applauds the students after introducing them.

Scholars of the program sought academic aid from the University’s Learning Lounge when they were high school students and received full neighborhood scholarships.

“All of these students are from the community I grew up in,” Chávez said at an SIS scholarship reception in October, expressing how the program empowers the West Phoenix community “to feel like we have a place in higher education”.

Since 2016, the University has awarded 545 SIS scholarships, with the first students in the program graduating in the spring of 2019. Currently, 329 SIS scholars are enrolled at GCU.

Jesus Mirandaan SIS scholarship student and graduate student in justice, wants to be a police officer, like Segovia, and wanted to be part of the Capitol trip because he’s always been interested in government, “helping people and making things change”.

His favorite part of the trip: “I loved seeing how everything worked, in a way, how they said ‘yay’ and ‘nay’,” he said.

SIS researcher Iris Yanez-Arambulaa junior primary school student/Spanish, said that what happens in legislative sessions determines what happens in the classroom, so she is always on the lookout when it comes to education legislation.

Scholars stand as they are introduced.

“And I take Government 260 (constitution and government of Arizona). I wanted to get a sense of reality rather than just getting it from teachers,” Yanez-Arambula said.

sisters Delia Patino and Ana Patino received SIS scholarships in 2021. Their brother works for Aliento, a non-profit organization that advocates for people affected by inequality related to lack of immigration status. Their brother worked on legislation to repeal a state education ban for undocumented students. Delia and Ana have therefore already been to the Capitol and are aware of what is happening in the Legislative Assembly.

“It’s been a good experience to see how everything works in government,” Delia, a second-year accounting student, said of Monday’s visit.

Ana, a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipient and mother of four who is studying business management, said she has a daughter who is very involved in politics, “and I want to know a little more and share it with her”.

About twenty SIS academics took part in the trip to the Capitol.

A highlight for Brianna Castrowho will be graduating in English for secondary education in April, met Chávez.

“It’s always a great experience to hear about the incredible heights GCU alumni have reached,” Castro said. “For me, it’s a motivation. Knowing that someone from my social and economic background can have such an impact on the community shows me that I am capable of doing the same. It was a great reminder for me to never settle and always push beyond the “boundaries” set by society.

Serafini said having SIS scholars interacting with leaders who come from their neighborhood, like Chávez, is “beyond sense.” One of the goals of the program is to develop leaders, and “to see an incredible in action, I know, has been memorable for all of them.”

“As a former student at GCU, we never really know where our lives are going to take us next,” Chávez said, “and so I’m really excited to see what all these young ladies and gentlemen are going to get into.”

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

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