Honors Symposium Spotlight: Operation Angel Whings Youth Program

By Josh McGuire

Honors students presenting at the symposium

As an Honors College student, the annual Spring Honors Symposium is constantly on the back of your mind. For some, it takes over your life for two months between two Saturdays. For overachievers, they feel carefree up until a solid 24 hours before the symposium presentations begin. Personally, I started thinking about my 2016 symposium project in November 2015.

Catherine Michaels, Marshall Mclean, Jonah Ybarra, Scot Madison Quiggle and I embarked on creating what we originally called Youthful Opportunity Lived Out (YOLO) to serve underprivileged youth in Phoenix. After nine months of ideation, development and fundraising (among other things), the project is now called the Operation Angel Whings Youth Program, backed fully by the local nonprofit Operation Angel Whings (OAW). It has been an interesting journey – one to remember and share.

The Operation Angel Whings Youth Program has a mission to offer vocationally based seminars, peer-to-peer mentorship and high impact investment that curtails high school students’ self-perceived inability or lack of opportunity to pursue potential.

Vocationally Based Seminars

This was a direct inspiration from Grand Canyon University. Anyone heavily involved in the Honors College knows about PAC Boot Camp, has met staff from the Career IMPACT Center and has probably received the “professionalism and career preparation will be your future” speech. High school students in low-income areas have access to none or a minimal amount of this.

There is a legitimate need that can be met throughout education, volunteerism and generous high impact investment. I encourage anyone that volunteers or donates in the community to hold a mindset that every person is valuable. Some may have more knowledge, more money or excessive amounts of both, but it does not change the essential value of a human being.

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:13-14). All of us are created inspirations of God – that does not change one human to another.

The Operation Angel Whings Youth Program will be debuting the seminar training on GCU’s campus on Nov. 5, 2016, with speakers from a variety of campus departments as well as the OAW staff. Most significantly, there will be approximately 50 high school students from high-need areas around the West Valley who will be served and brought closer to their inherent potential.

Peer-to-Peer Mentorship

There were a few major inspirations for this portion of our mission. During the Block Watch service event at Thomas Square, we met a constituent services coordinator for Councilwoman Laura Pastor’s office. We talked about the developing youth program, the role I was playing with Operation Angel Whings and most significantly a White House initiative called “My Brother’s Keeper.” The OAW Youth Program is not a direct partner of My Brother’s Keeper, but we saw the mentorship initiative that the City of Phoenix, in particular, has been embracing and integrated it into our program.

The second inspiration for the mentorship portion of our mission was a personal one. Since my freshman year at GCU, I have been a member of Circle K International (CKI), an organization dedicated to service, fellowship and leadership. A large initiative of the organization has been developing youth through a program called Leading with Laughter. I attended a district conference in February where the CKI chapter at the University of Arizona held a debut Leading with Laughter event. After two or three hours of playing games, facilitating teamwork development and having conversations with students, I felt inspired to mentor students and lift them up toward bright futures.

The peer-to-peer mentorship of the OAW Youth Program will begin spring 2017 for a 14-week program with weekly meetings with peers and informational seminars throughout. OAW will be looking for college mentors starting November 2016.

High Impact Investment & Youth Missions in Phoenix

Investing in the next generation is something everyone can take part in, and it starts when the desire to give back hits your heart.

For most Honors College students, it hits hard and fast during the Service Honors Symposium. There will be a moment that perpetuates a mindset of service into the entirety of your life. YOLO was my wrenching moment – walking through Thomas Square, running around with youngsters in Tucson and presenting a program to bring them to full potential at the Honors Symposium has been a pivotal experience. I encourage you to look for your moment and embrace the journey!

Keep up to date with Operation Angel Whings on Facebook at facebook.com/operationangelwhingsfoundation. OAW is also looking for a number of interns for the fall and spring semesters. If you are interested contact, Melissa Loyd-Dugger at Melissa.OAW@gmail.com. Learn more about joining the Honors College by visiting our website or contacting us using the Request More Information button at the top of the page.

More about Josh McGuire:

Josh McGuire is a finance, entrepreneurship and Christian studies student at GCU. He works for the Honors College as an event planner and interned for SEED SPOT and Operation Angel Whings. Additionally, he serves as a senator on ASGCU and club president for Defenders GCU and Circle K International.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.