By GCU Today News Bureau
Washington High School senior Juan Ballez, on the cusp of graduating and looking to the big, wide world and all of its possibilities, longs to help his father, whose knuckle was injured in an accident. Although doctors have done what they can, his father still can’t move his hand very well.

That’s why Ballez is incredibly determined—staunchly determined—to become a biomedical engineer.

Washington High School senior Juan Ballez, center (maroon shirt), was one of 43 students surprised on March 26 with full-tuition scholarships to Grand Canyon University. Ballez wants to become a biomedical engineer (photo courtesy of Grand Canyon University).

“I want to find a way for him to control his hand—to have full motion,” said Ballez on the evening of March 26, on the patio overlooking Brazell Field at GCU Ballpark.

Ballez was one of 43 students from 15 Valley high schools who were asked to come to campus for what administrators called a mandatory Students Inspiring Students (SIS) scholarship information meeting. Instead, they were told they had all received full-tuition scholarships.

“It feels like a huge weight lifted off my shoulders,” said Ballez after receiving the scholarship, which covers four years of tuition and books. “… I was determined. I was like, I can’t have my parents pay for it (college). I don’t want that burden on them.”

North Central students from the Phoenix Union High School District who received the SIS scholarships included: Matthew Martinez of Camelback High School; Christian Cancino of Central High School; Rasario Perez Nuñez, Yvette Miramontes, Andres Bañuelos, Marcelo Soto Medina, and Luis Fernando Cano Vasquez of Metro Tech High School; and Claribel Calderon, David Bonilla, Marcus Fuentes, and Iris Yanez Arambula from North High School.

From the Glendale Union High School District, scholarship recipients included: Ana Gonzalez-Sanchez and Jacob Whites from Sunnyslope High School; and Jacqueline Gallegos Castillo, Ethan Connery, Alyssa Mahn and Juan Ballez of Washington High School.

To meet the criteria for the SIS scholarship, the students need at least a 3.5 GPA, had to write an essay about their financial situation, and receive 100 hours of tutoring at GCU’s Learning Lounge, an afterschool program with college mentors helping local high school students.

Those who receive the scholarship pay it forward by providing academic support and mentoring in the Learning Lounge for the K-12 students who will follow them.

This is the fourth year of the Students Inspiring Students Initiative, a collaboration among GCU, the Grand Canyon University Scholarship Foundation, local high schools and business philanthropic leaders to improve K-12 education.



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