By: Elyssa Tijerina
SAN ANTONIO – Janet Gutierrez, a senior from Our Lady of the Lake University, lives in two different worlds. Some don’t see her as a mom, but she is older than she looks. Gutierrez is a non-traditional student, considering that she is 25 years old as well as a single mother to a six-year-old daughter named Sofia. Relatedly, Gutierrez comes from a family of six children, and despite being the fourth-born, she is the a first-generation student.
A native Texan, Gutierrez was born and raised in San Antonio. “I didn’t move a lot,” she said, “but we did travel to places for vacations such as Florida, California, and New Mexico. Traveling has played a big role in wanting to go outside of my comfort zone in order to ensure I have continual growth as a person.”
Before attending OLLU, the senior took several dual credit classes in high school at San Antonio College and has an Associate’s Degree in Applied Arts. Gutierrez is extremely passionate about equality and social justice, a factor that led the soon-to-be graduate to pursue a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work.
By being a full-time mom and student, Gutierrez has found a way to effectively combine these two elements in her life. The mother believes bringing that bringing her daughter to school not only provides quality time her and her child, but it also shows Sofia what she can expect when she attends a university. “Bringing her with me so often will allow her to feel so comfortable in higher education that it’ll be like second nature to her, and she won’t allow anyone to tell her she can’t succeed whether it be in her academic endeavors or in life. I tell my daughter her voice is the most powerful aspect about her and not to ever let anyone diminish that.”
In terms of campus involvement, Gutierrez is a remarkable student and has been on the Dean’s List at Our Lady of the Lake three semesters in a row, as well as the recipient of the President’s Volunteer Service Award (silver and bronze) and the Rising Leader Award. “I have been co-chair of the Oiga Mí Voz LaTeena Youth Conference twice, co-chair of the Hunger Banquet, inducted into Phi Alpha Honor Society and the National Society of Leadership and Success,” said the student. Similarly, Gutierrez is included in the Dr. Ronald E. McNair Scholars Program, President of Worden Social Work Organization, and LIFE Program Mentor.
Robert Oliva Jr., a junior at Our Lady of the Lake University, first met Gutierrez at an event that the senior’s organization was hosting. “Since then, we have become so close that I would say she is my best friend,” said Oliva Jr. “She is a fun, loving, hard working woman who has persevered through so much and keeps striving for greatness.”
The undergraduate notes that the aspect he will miss most about Gutierrez is the way the room lights up when she walks in. “There’s a certain type of energy that is brought to all that she encounters. I am going to miss the memories of her stories and jokes the most. She is always down for a good story and a laugh.”
After graduation, Gutierrez plans on working towards a Master’s Degree in social work, where she also plans to sit for her licensure of Licensed Clinical Social Workers. However, her end goal would to be to get a PhD and go into academia. “Within five years I would like to be a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and be at a non-profit.”
In closing, Gutierrez advised undergraduates to always strive for greatness and to never grow complacent. “Oftentimes, a person can become stagnate and lose their yearning for innovation as they get used to their day in and day out routines. However, if you challenge yourself and push yourself to try new things, you’ll gain a fresh perspective while growing whether it be emotionally or spiritually as a person.”