Student Spotlights

Vanesa Gutierrez: Laser-focused on her goal

vanesagutierrez_credit-erikaperez.jpgVanesa Gutierrez places a high value on education – she has pursued her educational dreams despite challenges that might have deterred a less determined person.

“I feel an obligation to pursue higher education and serve as a role model for my younger siblings,” she says. “Obtaining a higher education will get me closer to my goal, which is that of helping families and children in my community.”

Vanesa was born in the United States, but raised in Mexico. Her parents completed elementary school but did not continue to high school, and she hadn’t considered establishing a life in the U.S. until she reached adulthood. “However, as I became more aware of my long-term goals, I realized that moving to the U.S. would help me achieve them,” she says. “Leaving my family behind was the most difficult decision I had to make, but I knew those sacrifices would be worth it.”

Joining her older brother in the U.S., Vanesa stayed laser-focused on her goal. “I have surrounded myself with peers who care about school and are a great source of support when it comes to school-related work. Having a peer support system was essential to maintain myself motivated even through difficult or stressful times.”

Her English skills were extremely limited when she arrived, so she took two years of ESL classes at Sacramento City College and then another two years of general education classes before transferring to Sacramento State.  “I had to learn how to read, write, and speak while trying to figure out how to navigate the school system,” Vanesa says. “Because I am the first of my family to go to college, there was no one else to guide me through it. However, my desire to make it to a 4-year university was stronger than any obstacle I faced.”

Thus, much of her time is spent doing school-related work, such as studying, reading, and writing assignments, and her GPA shows it. Even with limited English skills, Vanesa was able to make the Dean’s Honor Roll every semester and was awarded three scholarships.

Meeting deadlines is key, she says, so she always makes sure to turn in all assignments on time, even if she doesn’t feel confident about them. “It is better to receive some points than none at all,” she says. “Also, if I have questions or concerns about the assignments, I reach out to my professors, either by visiting their office hours or through email.”

Vanesa graduates this spring with a BA in Child Development and a minor in counseling, and hopes to pursue a career as a school counselor or Spanish teacher. She’ll take a year off explore career options before graduate school.

“Being noticed by faculty members for my high grades is an honor that makes this accomplishment even more valuable,” she says. “Being able to network with experienced, knowledgeable, and caring faculty members, college staff, and other community leaders has been a great experience.”

Vanesa says her experience as an immigrant has shaped her understanding of underrepresented individuals in the community, especially in school settings. “I know what it is to be an immigrant, an ESL student, a first-time college student. I also know what it is to have goals, the desire to get an education, and the strength to achieve it. I would like to use those experiences to help young students find their true potential, guide them, and help them achieve their educational endeavors.”


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