Friends and family had to keep the surprise UA acceptance announcement a secret from Kelsey Luria, waiting for a time it for when she was feeling well enough. Luria was dressed for the occasion, however, as her hospital floor had instituted a "Bear Down Tuesday" to wear the Univerity's colors. (Photo: Brittney Nicole Smith/UANews)
Friends and family had to keep the surprise UA acceptance announcement a secret from Kelsey Luria, waiting for a time it for when she was feeling well enough. Luria was dressed for the occasion, however, as her hospital floor had instituted a "Bear Down Tuesday" to wear the Univerity's colors. (Photo: Brittney Nicole Smith/UANews)

New Wildcat Receives a Rousing Welcome

Wilbur, Wilma and members of the UA's admissions team surprised Kelsey Luria, a Catalina Foothills High School senior, by delivering an acceptance letter to her hospital room.
Feb. 4, 2015
The UA team prepares to surprise Kelsey Luria. (Photo: Brittney Nicole Smith/UANews)
The UA team prepares to surprise Kelsey Luria. (Photo: Brittney Nicole Smith/UANews)

Wilbur, Wilma and members of the University of Arizona admissions team waited outside a UA Medical Center hospital room, eager to file in and deliver an acceptance letter to the newest Wildcat: Kelsey Luria.

The doors were pushed open and the team — dressed in UA apparel and holding signs and balloons — poured in, clapping and chanting to surprise Luria with her acceptance letter from the University on Tuesday.

"I want to stand up," said Luria, who was diagnosed in November with acute myeloid leukemia, or AML, a rare form of cancer. She then got to her feet and stood between Wilbur and Wilma, posing for photos.

Luria, 17, a senior at Catalina Foothills High School in Tucson, said learning about her acceptance at the University felt as if "big pressure" had lifted from her shoulders. Being in the hospital, and not at school, has been difficult for her to manage, she said.

"I was really surprised," said Luria, who plans to study either journalism or athletic training at the UA. She already has written a piece about travel that was featured in the Arizona Daily Star and has spent time as a student athletic trainer at her high school.

Coincidentally, Luria was dressed for the occasion, as her hospital floor had instituted a "Bear Down Tuesday." She sat in her hospital bed, wearing a navy blue shirt with the UA's block-A logo, and the bandage on her chest read "Bear Down." She clutched the envelope containing the news of acceptance and threw her arms into the air in celebration before high-fiving Wilbur.

Michael Luria, her father, said her condition requires four long cycles of chemotherapy and that she is currently finishing the third round. He said her future at the UA would give her something to look forward to as she concludes what hopefully will be her last round of treatment.

"Going to the UA was something that she would often talk about," he said. "When she was facing cancer and diagnosed with an unknown future all of a sudden, it became that much more important to her."

Kasey Urquidez, the UA's vice president and dean of admissions, officially congratulated Luria on her accomplishment.

"She is just so incredible," Urquidez said. "I cannot imagine how much strength she has to go forward every day. She is the true spirit of 'Bear Down' and everything that we always believe in, but she's actually living it every day.

"We're just so proud of her and are so excited for her to actually be on campus next year and have that opportunity to get her education with us."

The UA recruits students at Luria's high school, but Urquidez learned about her after the football team had made an earlier visit to the hospital, also meeting Luria. The idea to bring Luria's admission news to her room was her father's idea.

"It's just so heartwarming, we knew this is what we had to do. We wanted to be here," Urquidez said. "The UA really is a special place, and I think doing things like this meant the world to her. It's not really for us, but we do this because we embody that spirit of wanting to help people. We have that caring kind of tradition."

Being a Wildcat runs in Luria's family. Both of her parents are UA graduates.

"She grew up in a Wildcat house. She's been a Wildcat her whole life," Michael Luria said, adding that the family remains connected by attending football and basketball games.

"The campus has changed so much since I've been there and it will be fun to experience the college life through her eyes," he said. "We just could not be more grateful and appreciative of the kindness and generosity of everybody who came out to share with Kelsey. One of her ambitions and one of the most important things for her to look forward to in her young life is being accepted to college at the University of Arizona."

As the admissions team filed out, eventually being surrounded by other patients on the floor who wanted to meet Wilbur and Wilma, Luria sat in her bed, surrounded by loved ones, gifts, signs and her acceptance letter.

"I'm really excited to be a Wildcat," she said.