Conversation and GU Hoodies to Neighborhood Kids

Elementary student from the back in a classroom with her hand raised.

March 02, 2023
Gonzaga News Center

There are many ways student volunteers at Gonzaga University’s Center for Community Engagement (CCE) engage with youth in local neighborhoods. More than 100 GU students are involved in CCE’s elementary school programs in Northeast Spokane. The Walking School Bus, Campus Kids, Smile, Zag Study Buddies and similar programs are possible only because GU students step forward to engage. Each effort has a purpose and role in fostering relationships and building connections.

Sometimes, a little open dialogue and pat on the back with a ‘glad we’re neighbors’ message is all it takes to connect in an entirely different way.

Children from Bemiss and Stevens Elementary Schools receiving their hoodies from Gonzaga.

Such was the case in February, when Gonzaga partnered with Spokane Public Schools’ Hoodie Project to meet with 5th grade students at Bemiss and Stevens Elementary Schools - and leave a warm, symbolic hug!

GU students arrived at the schools ready to speak about their college experience and plant a seed about the importance of preparing for post-secondary education. Four student athletes and five CCE students spoke about their choice of majors, volunteer commitments or athletic involvement, and pathways they took to college. They fielded lots of questions about how and why and what it takes to get to college and be successful.

Gonzaga students speaking to elementary schoolers at a community partnership event.

“The 5th grade students were so eager to hear what our Gonzaga students had to say about their college experiences,” said Jill Candland, youth programs manager at CCE. “When one of our Gonzaga students talked about their experience with ADHD and how they worked through challenges to get to college, several of the 5th graders responded that they are dealing with ADHD as well.”

Each of the GU students discussed the scholarships they had earned, and encouraged the youth to focus on academics, service and other activities so they could be able to earn scholarships for their future college goals, Candland added.

The GU students also presented each 5th grade student with a GU hoodie along with encouragement to ask for help, work hard, and stay engaged in school.

“I have seen many of the youth wearing the Gonzaga hoodies to Campus Kids and other programs,” Candland added. “I think that having a Gonzaga hoodie has made them realize how welcomed and valued they are here at GU.”

Interested in Gonzaga's community outreach programs?