Granting Infinite Worth
By: Kourtney Schott ’18
When students decide they want to pursue higher education after high school, most of them (and their families) worry about the big-ticket items that come with college: tuition, books, fees, room and board. However, other significant expenses relate to career and professional development.
Gonzaga Student Body Association President Carlo Juntilla (’18) wanted to alleviate the stresses these expenses cause, especially for first-generation and/or low-income students who are most vulnerable to these worries. How would he do it? Through the creation of an Undergraduate Professional Development Grant, an idea inspired by peer leaders at other schools
A completely student-led initiative, funding covers any expenses related to professional development, such as fees for graduate school entry exams, flights to conferences, interview attire and resume preparation – almost all necessary items to be successful while in college and beyond graduation.
Before securing funds, Juntilla met with University Advancement where he learned that in order to become a permanent fixture funded by the university’s endowment, the grant needed a $50,000 balance.
Juntilla wasted no time. In December 2017, he pitched the idea to Gonzaga’s Board of Trustees, highlighting how the grant specifically aligned with the university’s mission of serving the poor and vulnerable. Board members designated $32,000 toward the goal, which Juntilla found incredibly empowering. “It was reassurance that first-generation and low-income students belong on Gonzaga’s campus, and that there are people who care about supporting them.”
Another event contributed a substantial amount to the grant: Zags Give Day in March. More than 70 donors contributed $5,000 for the grant, pushing the needle even closer to the $50,000 goal.
In addition, the Board of Regents contributed another $4,000 in April, bringing the total at the time of publishing to around $40,000.
Though Juntilla’s presidency ends with the Spring 2018 semester, his successor, Athena Sok (’19), is committed to completing the work toward preserving the Undergraduate Professional Development Grant. Additionally, alumni and other university supporters have continually told Juntilla that if he continues issuing support for the grant the way he is, there is no doubt the grant will become a permanent fixture.
Give students a chance to thrive within professional development: Donate to the Undergraduate Professional Development Grant at www.gonzaga.edu/gsbagrant.
One of the key attributes of the grant is that its funds stay in the hands of students.
“I want the grant to give students more opportunities to engage in social justice and be in service to their Zag community,” expresses Juntilla. Future GSBA presidents will elect five representatives to serve on a committee that oversees the distribution of the funds, along with the help of the admissions and financial aid offices to determine applicant socioeconomic and first-generation status.
How does one define first-generation, though? For the grant application, it will be in the hands of the student applicants to define it. Juntilla hopes that this grants more empowerment and freedom with individual interpretations.
One of the greatest outcomes of Juntilla’s idea for the Undergraduate Professional Development Grant might not be the fund itself, though. Juntilla knows the grant is successful because it aligns so well with the university’s mission, especially being people with and for others and recognizing the dignity of all people. “My hope is that people will continue to use the mission to do good work in terms of helping their fellow students, and I believe this grant is a testament to that.”
Additionally, Juntilla knows that the true benefit of the grant will be with those students who feel marginalized within a university that boasts community at every door: “I want this grant to tell them,
‘Yes, you do belong here and there are people who believe in your infinite worth.’”
*Juntilla credits several other key players in helping to make the grant a reality. Ray Angle, Assistant Vice President of Career and Professional Development, Joey Sammut, Assistant Director of Student Involvement and Leadership, Kristin McNeley, Program Manager with University Advancement and Judy Biggs Garbuio, Vice President for Student Development, all have contributed immense amount of time and knowledge to assist with Juntilla’s cause.