Gabriel Gutierrez has had many educational accomplishments after graduating Hilltop High School. He graduated from San Diego State University with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and a master’s degree in public administration. He was a part of the University of Kansas’ National Urban Fellows program where he received an executive leadership certificate.
But Gutierrez still credits his first two years at Southwestern College, his hometown community college, as the most transformative and important educational experience he’s ever had.
“When I look back at my education, I always look back a little harder at Southwestern College,” Gutierrez said. “If it wasn’t for Southwestern College, I wouldn’t have gone through my educational journey.”
It’s the opportunities that Southwestern College gave Gutierrez that make him want to give back. In addition to being a personal donor to the Southwestern College Foundation and helping fund student scholarships, Gutierrez serves on the Southwestern College Foundation’s Jaguar Awards planning committee. Gutierrez’s employer, SDG&E, is also a corporate donor to the Foundation.
Because of individual donors like Gutierrez, Southwestern College Foundation was able to provide nearly $200,000 in student scholarships and emergency and program grants in 2017.
“It’s important to give back to places that gave to you,” he said. “If you’re an alumni of Southwestern College and had a great experience like I did, we have to give back. It’s so important.”
Giving back to Southwestern College is only one of the ways Gutierrez works to improve his community. He’s the chair of the Chula Vista Planning Commission, appointed by the mayor and the city council, and he has previously served on the Chula Vista Safety Commission. He also serves as the chair of Circulate San Diego, a non-profit dedicated to making San Diego communities more walkable and bikeable.
“I grew up in Chula Vista,” he said. “This city gave a lot to me and gave me a lot of opportunities. I just love this city, this is my city and I do my best to serve it.”
When Gutierrez thinks about his community, he thinks about the people looking for opportunities to make their lives better. People who might be looking to own a home, people who are looking to make their community better or young students looking for an education.
“Southwestern College changes lives,” he said. “It gives people access to an education who might not have it otherwise. The people who grow up here, they need somewhere to go to a school that they can afford.”
To help make a difference in the lives of Southwestern College students, donate now to the Southwestern College Foundation.