Service is at the heart of what it means to be an Elks scholar. Whether it’s serving locally or across the country, Elks scholars are dedicated to building stronger communities. Through the Scholar Advisory Board, the SAB, this commitment to service is embodied every day. Meet a few of its newest members.
Marisol Cruz Velasco, a 2022 Most Valuable Student scholar sponsored by Gilroy, Calif., Lodge No. 1567 and sophomore at University of California, Berkeley, received an Elks Service Grant to make an impact on her campus. According to a study done by the University of California Global Food Initiative, 39 percent of undergraduates at UC Berkeley experience food insecurity. To combat this, Cruz Velasco used the grant to organize food funds and deliver food sacks, while also teaching students how to budget.
In addition to her Elks Service Grant, Cruz Velasco gives back by using social media to provide information on scholarships and college access to other students. With more than 14,000 followers on TikTok, Cruz Velasco feels a responsibility to help others on their academic journeys.
“As an Elks Scholar,” says Cruz Velasco, “I understand the importance of investing in the education of young people, empowering them to reach their full potential and make positive contributions to society, which is why I make engaging videos on my TikTok page.”
Cruz Velasco is excited to use her skills to serve her fellow scholars as a SAB member.
“I am grateful for the impact the Elks National Foundation has had on my life,” says Cruz Velasco, “so I hope to use my creativity and voice to truly demonstrate that I care for my Elks family.”
Shanay Desai’s view of service was changed when he attended the Elks Scholar Service Trips in Seattle and Tampa, Florida.
“Our daily community-oriented activities were followed by long sessions of self-reflection, where I realized that service is not merely a task, but a transformational journey that reshapes both the giver and the recipient,” says Desai, a 2021 Most Valuable Student scholar sponsored by Canton, Miss., Lodge No. 458 and junior at Vanderbilt University. “These experiences underscored the idea that service transcends geographical boundaries, backgrounds and preconceived notions.”
As a first-generation student, Desai looks to bring his unique perspective to the SAB.
“I have always believed that true leadership emerges from understanding the nuances of diverse backgrounds,” says Desai, “and I am committed to utilizing my personal story as a catalyst for meaningful dialogue within the Elks Scholar Advisory Board.”
After Tanner Christensen, a 2020 Most Valuable Student scholar sponsored by Provo, Utah, Lodge No. 849 and senior at Stanford University, attended the virtual 2020 Top 20 Leadership Weekend, he knew he could find refuge in the #ElksFamily. He immediately got involved in the Elks scholar virtual programming, from hosting clubs to meet-ups, and attended the 2022 Summer Service Trip in Atlanta. When he was asked to serve as a scholar leader for the 2023 Leadership Weekend, he was excited to convey to the Top 20 what it means to be a part of a community of changemakers who are motivated to give back to the community.
“Despite everyone’s different interests and backgrounds,” says Christensen, “Elks scholars share so many beliefs and passions, like serving others and making the world a better place.”
The relationships Christensen made during the 2023 Leadership Weekend, especially with former SAB President Kat Nakamura, represent the bond that Elks scholars share.
“I will forever cherish the bond between Kat and me,” says Christensen, “it exemplifies how Elks scholars share an almost unspoken, built-in friendship and connection with one another.”
Brennan Muhich, a 2023 Legacy Awards recipient sponsored by Eveleth, Minn., Lodge No. 1161 and freshman at The College of St. Scholastica, often jokes that he and his brother were born into Elkdom. Growing up with a father that held office positions at various levels with the Elks, Muhich learned about the variety of programs and services the Elks provide their communities.
Now, as he works towards a career in public service, Muhich wants to use his time on the SAB to grow professionally and give back to the community he cares about so much.
“Serving on the Elks Scholar Advisory Board,” says Muhich, “will help me reach my goals by engaging and networking with other Elks Scholars and Elks, strengthening my communication, community-building and leadership skills, and providing new and innovative ways to serve the Elks and my community.”
Through her personal and professional experiences, Gloria Guerrier, a 2023 Most Valuable Student scholar sponsored by Massapequa, N.Y., Lodge No. 2162 and freshman at Yale University, has been able to make a difference in communities near and far. While Guerrier has co-authored a research case study with the US Food and Drug Administration and National Institute of Standards and Technology, she has also represented her home country of Haiti in an international track and field competition.
While on the SAB, Guerrier will be able to use her background to connect with other Elks scholars.
“As a Division I student athlete and person of color in the engineering field, I can connect with the small community of others in Elks that share the same interests as I do.”
As Cruz Velasco, Desai, Christensen, Muhich and Guerrier begin their time on the SAB, we look forward to seeing the positive impact they will have. Welcome to the team!
In 2023-24, the Elks National Foundation will award nearly $4.2 million in college scholarships, ensuring a bright future for our nation’s youth. As important members of the Elks family, Elks scholars receive many social and service opportunities with the Elks and one another. For more information about our scholarship programs and ways Lodges can get involved with Elks scholars, visit enf.elks.org/scholars.