Courage. Shown in Many Ways in Gonzaga's New Commercial
Meet the students featured in the final seconds of Gonzaga's new brand commercial, "Hands," and see how they're raising their hands for what they believe in.
Pictured above: Gonzaga students featured in the "Hands" commercial released March 2022 (L-R): Zenaye Brown ('24), Miguel Acosta-Loza ('23), Braden Bell ('23), Katrina Wagner ('23).
We’ve all been there. We’ve raised our hands before. It can be awkward, maybe even a bit uncomfortable. But raising your hand is about exemplifying courage. Offering a solution, a helping hand, or just simply being the one who goes first is at times, a tall task.
Meet Zen Brown (‘24). Besides working toward a bachelor’s degree in sociology, Brown is also a programming intern with Unity Multicultural Education Center (UMEC). With UMEC, Brown has assisted with equity-driven events, like one titled Confronting Labels. Brown saw a challenge and was unafraid to work toward a solution. “From the moment I entered GU in fall 2020, I realized that there was a dire need to confront the ongoing issue of mislabeling here on the campus of the LGBTQ and BIPOC community.” Confronting Labels focused on teaching students and professors the impact of mislabeling a person and how we can go about asking someone their preferred label. “UMEC has opened so many doors for me. It gave me the opportunity to find my best self in the work that I love surrounded by like-minded people.”
Some Zags are focused on raising their hands in more ways than one.
Katrina Wagner (‘23) has raised hers in quite a bit around GU. Whether working on her accounting degree, with Setons of Gonzaga or the New Venture Lab, Wagner embodies the spirit of Gonzaga: achieving excellence with a purpose. Currently, Wagner is a project manager focused on improving market strategy for local nonprofit Vanessa Behan Crisis Nursery. “This club has provided me many great opportunities to work with professionals in the Spokane community while learning the intricacies of local businesses, the necessary drive behind entrepreneurship, as well as the value of collaboration.” This newfound appreciation for collaboration came in handy with Setons of Gonzaga, as Wagner had the opportunity to spend time with kids from an after-school program with Spokane's Transitional Living Center, a facility for women and children.
“I raised my hand to direct an activity, ask a question, or high-five the younger hands that have held vastly different experiences than me,” she said. “Raising our hands signifies listening and expression which can be translated to anything in life. They also taught me so much about resilience and joy amid severe tribulations.”
Sometimes, one can raise their hand just as high in their personal life as their professional life. Wagner did just that last Spring, as she participated with her choreography class in the Dance department’s spring performance. “As someone with a physical disability, I have not felt safe enough to express my creativity in the art of dance,” Wagner said. “However, with the encouragement of my sister and acceptance of the dance community, this opportunity was one I'll never forget. Standing on the stage with a spotlight shining on me, looking out in a beautiful theater has been one of the highlights of my college career.”
Other times, people raise their hands in advocacy for others.
When he isn’t raising his hand in one of his many biology classes, Braden Bell (‘23) has done that quite a few times for his fellow Zags as the president of the Gonzaga Student Body Association (GSBA). A part of the organization since his freshman year, Bell has always focused on improving life around campus for students. “[GSBA] has provided me a chance to see how GU works behind the scenes at the administrative level, and how I can use my position to provide student voice and feedback in places where decisions are being made.” Bell isn’t just giving student feedback in places where decisions are made, he’s making those decisions himself. After understanding that student voices are the most significant consideration in directing the actions of the GSBA, Bell was able to make tangible change.
“That realization was my first step in finding the courage to raise my hand and advocate for Gonzaga students, like when I asked the Board of Trustees for an increase in on-campus mental health resources,” Bell said. “I’m thankful for a supportive student body that gives myself and other leaders the courage to raise our hands and advocate for our peers in all aspects of student life.”
Part of cultivating a home is feeling comfortable inside it. Thankfully, GU has Miguel Acosta-Loza (‘23) to foster a welcoming campus for everyone. Majoring in international relations and working with Bell in GSBA, Acosta-Loza serves as director of diversity and inclusion this year. “As an international student, fitting in was a big challenge for me. I love helping others feel at home through authenticity and belonging.” Along with feeling comfortable, simply being recognized is a vital component of building a community. Acosta-Loza and GSBA also established a new collaboration with the Office of Tribal Relations to recognize and support Native American students – a group that had not had this direct connection in its 17 years as a department. For a hand-raiser like Acosta-Loza, it was an important moment.
“I saw a neglected member of our community, and I decided to act.”
For Zags, hand-raising is simply what they are taught to do. No matter where or what, there’s always an opportunity on campus, in Spokane or across the globe to use courage in advocacy for others.
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