The appreciation in students’ eyes was clear during the dedication of a new field at Puebla del Sol Elementary School — for Puebla del Sol students and Grand Canyon University students.
Just 2 miles from their campus, 10 GCU club soccer players and coach Lance Thompson volunteered to put on a clinic Wednesday for Puebla del Sol students’ first activity on “Fiesta Bowl Field.” Fiesta Bowl Charities and partner UnitedHealthcare turned a dirty, rocky field into a grassy area with the turf from December’s Cactus Bowl.
Dignitaries from the Fiesta Bowl, UnitedHealthcare and Isaac School District attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony but the GCU club soccer players were the celebrities to kids who raced to them for high fives upon entrance.
“When the students saw that Grand Canyon University was here, they noticed how important the field had become,” Pueblo del Sol principal Armando Chavez said. “It’s not just the Pueblo community but it’s also the Grand Canyon community coming out and showing, ‘Hey, we’re your partner.’ It made it real for them. They now have a first-hand image of what they can become – maybe a Grand Canyon student, maybe a Grand Canyon soccer player. Now they have that role model right in front of them. To me, there is nothing more powerful than that for a youngster learning about school and athletics.”
The event included GCU history with the presence of Lopes basketball legend J.C. Helton, who coached and taught in the Isaac district and holds the state record for middle school basketball coaching victories.
GCU soccer players Mo Belahoussine, Peter Delgado-Murillo, Jose Ferreira, Riley Hood, Jeremy Logan, Logan Ray, Tori Roel, Casey Slattery, Camden Vellom and Megan Wojnicki worked four soccer skills stations with the Pueblo del Sol students excitedly rotating through each one.
“I love working with little kids and seeing them connect to you,” said Slattery, a junior who is the president of GCU men’s club soccer. “I tried to get them to get excited about playing soccer. It’s really cool to see that they have a new facility and I want them to all enjoy it.”
At the end of each session, the students were making Lopes signs with their hands. At the end of the clinic, they were hugging GCU students before being pulled back to class.
“That’s what we’re all about – the ability to pass on the knowledge that our athletes have gathered and to give back to the community,” Thompson said. “That’s what the mission of the institution is about at Grand Canyon University iand our club sports program there as well.
“We have good character student-athletes here in our club soccer program.”