Marissa Gutierrez was a student speaker at one of this year’s Summer Institutes in San Diego, CA. Below is her speech as prepared.
Advancement: the act or instance of moving forward. In order to measure it, one must know the starting point. At a young age, I always looked forward to going to school. I loved learning. My parents raised us in Mexico where they both had their jobs and worked very hard for my brother and me to have a private education. Growing up, I realized that not everyone was that lucky, so I would challenge myself to excel in everything I could. I remember doing great in all my subjects, loving my teachers, and dreaming of becoming an engineer, but that was not my starting point.
My starting point was when my mom retired, and my family moved back to what they called home. My starting point was the first day of eighth grade—sitting in a classroom in Texas, listening to other girls make fun of the new girl. Make fun of me. My starting point was pretending like I couldn’t understand English, pretending like I did not know what they would say about me, pretending that I was not able to succeed. When I was thirteen years old, I was told I was just another statistic that proved that people who looked and talked like me would never achieve anything. For two years, my parents reminded me that we moved to the U.S. for my brother and me to have greater opportunities, but I never paid attention because deep inside I hated school.
At 15, the rumors were that, if you made it to Odessa High School, the chances to drop out pregnant were greater than the chances of ever graduating. I found myself thinking about this during my first day of high school. First period AVID—Mrs. Woodall’s class—a woman who believes that education is for everyone, but success is for those who are willing to advance. I know I can stand in front of the world, and I have in front of some smaller audiences, and talk about binders, Cornell notes, WICOR, and the importance of effective tutoring. I can tell you everything I did in AVID my sophomore, junior, and senior year. I can tell you great things about my experience as an AVID tutor. To be honest, I can talk about AVID for a day straight and still manage to entertain you…but I don’t want to do that.
On June 2nd of 2012, I stood up seven times during my graduation—Homecoming court, Students in Philanthropy, Senior Board officer, Student Council, National Honor Society, Miss OHS; yet the only time I shed a tear happened when they asked for the AVID graduates to stand up. I owe so much to AVID. I would never have the awards, or the scholarships, or the guts to walk up to Texas Tech University like it’s my house without the educators—not the teachers—the educators who saw the individual determination in me.
Signing up for college classes, I somehow found this AVID course. Brand new to Texas Tech, the course is designed around material on how-to-survive-college for incoming freshmen and transfer students by using the AVID strategies. I had never thanked God so much about a two-hour credit, believe me. Even though it was only one semester, the course truly taught me how to survive in higher education. AVID helped me get to college, and it is still carrying me to this day. It gave me an amazing job as an AVID tutor. It helped me when I messed up my GPA thanks to taking Calculus II at 8 a.m. three days a week. It continues to give me opportunities to share why it is the best college readiness system, and this past December, AVID alone opened the doors for me to follow my dreams and enter the College of Engineering.
Robin Roberts once said that “it’s not so much what we accomplish at the end of the day; it is what we have overcome that you remember the most.” She is such a role model to me, but when it comes to AVID, I disagree with this quote. As an action, when one advances via individual determination, one accomplishes so much more than the dream itself. I continue to accomplish so much through AVID that sometimes I forget what I have overcome. I will never forget where I come from, don’t get me wrong. However, AVID has never taught me to look back and suddenly feel strong. AVID teaches me, to this very day, to look forward and know that I am and have always been strong. Mrs. Woodall just had to remind me of that many times in high school. Now, I remind my students of the same. That is true advancement.