Alumni Profile: Esmeralda Gutierrez
"A Success Story Despite Daunting Barriers"
By the time she was 19, Esmeralda Gutierrez had a bachelor’s degree, a teaching credential and the beginning of a career she loves as an elementary school teacher.
Esmeralda never dreamed she would become one of the youngest professionals in her field. She grew up in Los Angeles, “in a dangerous neighborhood. I used to wake up to dead corpses in the front yard.” Today she lives and works in the same neighborhood.
Her parents have only a few years of schooling between them, yet her mother has been a constant source of encouragement for her. Her mother encouraged her bold decision at age 14 to take college classes at night in addition to working and attending high school during the day. Her mother would pick her up late at night after class and encouraged her to continue on to college, telling her, “You are going to be something!”
But Esmeralda was apprehensive because she has a serious hearing disability that made it hard for her to hear in large classrooms. She needed a clear view of her teachers in order to read their lips.
One of her teachers suggested she apply to Loyola Marymount University where the small classes would be more accessible. “I was still 16 when I got accepted. It was very expensive and my parents couldn’t afford it. I knew I was limited because of my handicap and my money issues,” she recalls. Still, she also knew that she had already successfully tackled multiple challenges.
She credits the Hispanic Scholarship Fund for helping her continue her education despite her disability. “It was special because I could associate with other recipients. The scholarships made me feel they had a trust in me to reach my goals,” she said.
The vibrant 20-year-old enjoys working with children in the community where she grew up, teaching the sons and daughters of family friends. Her most important contribution, however, is sharing her story.
“I surpassed the barriers and everybody’s stereotypes,” she said. “Teachers ask me to come tell my story to encourage kids. If I can do it, anyone can do it.”
Esmeralda’s determination and drive reflect the strong work ethic and dedication of so many HSF Scholars. As a teacher in her barrio, she will inspire more children to exceed expectations and become the skilled professionals who can lead this country into the next century.