Emily Ghena and Jedidiah Woods Make an Impact in Arizona
Two Lenawee Christian School (LCS) alumni recently earned top honors from Grand Canyon University (GCU), a university working in partnership with LCS to provide Christian education opportunities to LCS alumni, staff, and students. Emily Ghena and Jedidiah (Jed) Woods earned Outstanding Senior Awards, which recognize students from the graduating class “…who have exemplified academic excellence, service, faith and the GCU spirit during their undergraduate years on campus.” These awards provide a 50% scholarship to be used toward their Master’s Degrees from GCU. More than 75,000 students attend the Arizona school, and only ten awards were given this year. Jed said, “The award was an amazing honor that was entirely through the blessing of God and people that I have met here.”
Both Jed and Emily made their way from Adrian to GCU in Phoenix with focus and determination. Emily graduated Summa Cum Laude, earned more than thirty dual enrollment credits at LCS, and was awarded a full scholarship to attend GCU. She planned a pre-med undergraduate degree with long-term hopes to become a dentist. After only two years at LCS, Jed graduated Cum Laude, earned a significant scholarship to attend GCU, and pursued a Business Administration degree.
Emily's Pursuit of Excellence
Not only has Emily been awarded by her peers an Outstanding Senior of her class, she also won the Honors College Outstanding Senior of The Year Award – the most prestigious senior undergraduate award at GCU. These two awards recognize Emily’s consistent pursuit of excellence as a leader both inside and out of the classroom. Breanna Naegeli, Assistant Dean of the Honors College, glowed when thinking back on Emily’s years at GCU, “I have had the distinct pleasure of knowing and working alongside Emily for the last four years, and her tenacious drive and passion to serve is unmatched. She displays strong leadership both by example, and through her charismatic, enthusiastic energy which empowers those around her to excel. She reaches new heights daily and has a bright future ahead of her…” Naegili explained that Emily’s top award was voted on by the Dean of the Honors College, Dr. Antoinette Farmer, GCU’s Honors College administration, faculty, staff, and her honors peers. She also remarked, “[Emily] has undoubtedly left a memorable impression on our college. We are beyond grateful for all she has done for and with us…”
In addition to her work in the Honors College, Emily is the President of GCU’s chapter of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars (NSCS). She has led in impressive fashion, recently adding a group of over 1,000 new members to the group of about 3,000. According to Aysha Bell, the Honors College Program Manager who nominated Emily for her Outstanding Senior Award, GCU’s NSCS chapter has been recognized as one of the largest and most engaged groups in the country.
Emily also led a student group called Honors STEMists, where she planned events for science, nursing, engineering and technology students in the Honors College to promote professional development, engagement and overall academic success. According to Bell, Emily organized a number of productive events on campus to provide training, recognition, or informative presentations. One of the most prestigious events has been a “Dinner with Grads” event, where, Bell said, “…aspiring healthcare professionals can engage with graduate and medical school representatives, including current students attending select programs. This event has gained notoriety and has been featured in GCU marketing material.” Without a doubt, Emily has left a lasting legacy at Grand Canyon University.
We asked Emily about her plans, and she said, “I am earning my degree in Biology Pre-Medicine with a minor in Entrepreneurial studies and Honors. After graduation, I am going to take a gap year before applying for dental schools. I plan to apply for dental schools across the country in pursuit of a Doctor of Dental Surgery degree (D.D.S). My ultimate career goal is to become a general dentist and open up a private practice.”
She reflected upon her recognition by stating, “I felt honored to represent my senior class…. [These awards represent] my hard work and dedication to my education. However, I would not have been successful without the endless support of my professors, mentors, and parents…. LCS started me on a trajectory that prepared me to excel in higher education. The small class sizes and involved staff members ensured my high quality educational experience. Additionally, the dual enrollment program was a great way to get exposure to college classes while still in high school. Overall, I am thankful to the wonderful, engaged faculty at LCS and I attribute my academic success to their efforts.”
We are certainly proud of Emily and her efforts. We look forward to seeing the doors that God will open for her in the future!
Jedidiah's Blessed Journey
During his time at GCU, Jedidiah made a considerable impact on the world around him — creating and leading campus-wide events, traveling as a storyteller, leading public relations efforts, and leading several successful business ventures. When reflecting back on his time at GCU, Jed said, “Ever since I came to GCU, God has been working so tangibly, over-blessing me more than I could ever imagine. As I have grown older, I’ve realized that God has been blessing me like this all my life, but I have just been learning to recognize it.” Branna Naegeli, Assistant Dean of GCU’s Honors College added, “Jedidiah is an inspirational leader in the GCU community. He displays immense creativity, has proven a commitment to making a local and global impact, and exudes incredible interpersonal skills. He relates to others beyond measure, and these qualities have helped him achieve his many accomplishments thus far.” Let’s look at some of the many blessings and opportunities God has provided to Jed during his journey over the past four years.
In 2017, Jed co-founded a TedX conference on GCU’s campus to give real-world event planning and business experience to GCU students, and connect with business, cultural, and civic leaders from the greater Phoenix area. The first event, in March of 2017, drew 1,000 attendees to GCU. The 8-hour conference featured eighteen speakers who rallied under the theme, “Be a Part of Something Great.” As he was preparing for the event, GCU’s news site, GCU Today asked Jed about the speakers: “We looked for ideas more than specific people… [It wasn’t] just a lecture, but… [ideas] or concepts that are of a new or different perspective,” said Woods. The event repeated successfully in 2018, ending with Jed and the TedX student leadership team of forty students receiving a standing ovation from the crowd.
Jed noted that GCU’s culture and people were the influences which ignited his pursuit of new dreams and ideas. “When I first visited GCU, I immediately felt a vibe of innovation, both on the campus and in Phoenix as a whole,” Woods told GCU Today. His first business venture, a solution called Storage Together, was called “… the best up-and-coming business concept on Earth” after winning the 2016 global Smart City Hack competition in Barcelona, Spain. Think of it like the Airbnb for temporary or long-term storage. Simply put, the solution (a phone app) connects people with space to people with need to store items. Learn more about Storage Together at https://storage-together.com.
Jedidiah’s next business venture, Thoreson Watches, launched as a Kickstarter campaign in December of 2017. The wristwatch product concept is mission-based, as each watch funds the investment of time in the life of a refugee child and employs their refugee mothers. His goal is to “…help refugees from every nation on all six of the human-inhabited continents.” His $20,000 campaign launched after 30-days of fundraising. His hope is that he will someday be able to work full-time in support of Thoreson Watches and Storage Together.
Jed has traveled all over the world using his gifts in photography and writing to tell stories of the people he meets. His account on Instagram displays many of the powerful stories he tells of people from Iceland, Spain, California, Colorado, New York, and many more locations. His work caught the attention of GCU’s admissions team who recently hired him to tell stories through video and photography of students.
Jedidiah’s journey did not begin at LCS, but our beloved school holds a special place in his heart. “LCS has been one of the greatest opportunities of my life, and I mean that! LCS helped increase my GPA while simultaneously teaching me better than my previous school. LCS also prepared me for the ACT so I was able to score high enough to receive a scholarship to Grand Canyon University,” said Jed. “…This opportunity would not have been possible if I hadn’t come to visit LCS that cold day in December of 2012 with Grant Holbien, which confirmed in me that LCS was the place for me. I am so humbled to look back on my life and see all the ways that God orchestrated it to land me where I am, I couldn’t be more grateful and thankful.”