Phoenix Suns Charities & Helios Education Foundation Award Full-Tuition College Scholarship To Carl Hayden Community High School Student

by Sean Gale

Marylin Maldonado knew that Monday was going to be a big day.

The coronavirus pandemic unfortunately robbed the Carl Hayden Community High School senior of the opportunity to experience a traditional graduation ceremony, but she was excited to celebrate the achievement alongside her fellow graduates in the Class of 2020 during a drive through graduation ceremony at Hayden last night.

Before that, though, Maldonado woke up bright and early to participate in a teleconference interview with representatives from a local organization who were deliberating their final candidates for a small college scholarship.

Just before the conversation was slated to begin, Maldonado received a call from Jessica Solis with Be A Leader Foundation. The local nonprofit aims to help students in Arizona navigate the college application process by providing them with the tools and resources needed to become college bound, and Maldonado got involved with the organization a few years ago as she began to plan her next chapter beyond high school. 

Solis instructed her to come outside, where Maldonado was surprised by a small group of representatives from the Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Suns Charities. The Gorilla hopped out of his Hummer and excitedly handed her an iPad featuring a special video message from Suns President & CEO Jason Rowley on behalf of the Phoenix Suns Charities Board of Directors. 

“We know you want to be a Northern Arizona University Lumberjack, so the Suns, along with Helios Education Foundation, want to help make that dream a reality as we’d like to offer you a four-year, full-tuition scholarship to NAU,” said Rowley.

Maldonado, who will be the first in her family to attend college, couldn’t believe it and the tears began to flow. 

“I can’t even explain it,” Maldonado said. “I’m speechless.”

The Phoenix Suns Charities Board of Directors selected Maldonado based on her strong academic record, display of leadership as a member of the Carl Hayden Community High School marching band and her involvement with Be A Leader Foundation in an effort to set herself up for an incredibly bright future. This marks the second consecutive year that Phoenix Suns Charities and Helios Education Foundation, which has underwritten the scholarship, awarded a four-year, full tuition scholarship to a deserving Arizona high school student. 

The last two months introduced a wave of uncertainty and apprehension among local students, who had to finish the school year via online classes and missed out on several traditional senior activities. Maldonado was especially distraught by missing out on the chance for her family to see her walk across the stage with diploma in hand. 

While she certainly envisioned a more ordinary ending to her high school years, she was elated by the surprise of a lifetime on Monday morning and couldn’t be more excited to attend NAU this fall.

“I’m really thankful for all of you, and I hope to become something big in this world.”


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