GCU Learning Lounge offers free tutoring for high school students

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By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver

PHOENIX -- Helping Arizona students has become a community project in the Phoenix Union High School District.

Grand Canyon University is sharing its campus and its students to make sure high schoolers have the tools to succeed.

Just a year ago, Cyrus McMullen could have become another statistic -- a student who maybe finished high school and maybe didn't.

“I was just getting bored with school, and I didn't care about school,” he said.

But today, this Alhambra High School sophomore not only has his sights set on graduation, he is aiming for college.

“There's so much opportunities, I don't even know,” he said when asked about what he might like to major in.

But there is no question about why he is choosing college. It is because McMullen has already found his place at Grand Canyon University: in the Learning Lounge.

“This is free tutoring for high school students, specifically Alhambra High School, which is part of the Phoenix Union High School District,” said Joe Veres, the director of student development and outreach at GCU.

He says students from Alhambra, Maryvale and Bourgade high schools can come any weeknight from 3 to 8 p.m. for help on almost any subject.

“We do everything. We cover everything from basic pre-algebra to calculus to science to biology. You name it, we cover it here," Veres said. "We have partnered with St. Mary's Food Bank. Every student that comes here also gets a free meal.“

The lounge first opened last year and is staffed with GCU students like Deesember Corrales.

“Do you remember what bisector is?” Corrales asked McMullen.

“A bisector is, it cuts a shape into two equal parts,” he answered confidently.

It is an interaction Corrales says is incredibly rewarding.

“I enjoy my time here, working with my students, and being able to help them and watch them grow every day," she said. "And it has been a blessing being here.”

Although she is studying business administration, she says tutoring is enriching her education as well.

“We do a lot of basic math with our students, and that is really going to be helpful for me in the future," she said.

Veres added, “The students that are really benefiting from this are the Grand Canyon University students. They get to interact. They have different experiences. They get to share their experiences and their expertise.”

And while helping students achieve academic success at both schools is was what sparked the idea of the Learning Lounge, it turns out they have actually found a formula that leads to success far beyond any classroom.

“Since I have been coming here, it has really been making me think about school and about my choices,” McMullen said.

Corrales said of McMullen, “He told me one day, ‘Deesember, I have changed my mind; I am going to go to Grand Canyon,' and it was at that moment that I realized that I am going to help him get straight As so he can come here."

In short, McMullen says the lounge has changed his life.

While it does focus on Alhambra, Maryvale and Bourgade students, the program is open to all Phoenix Union High School District students.

The tutoring program and other initiatives at Alhambra have been credited with raising test scores, enrollment and graduation rates.