Transfer student and Ecuadorian immigrant Jessica Gutierrez is the first of her family to graduate college.
Jessica Gutierrez ’17 is reaping the rewards of her hard work in the face of extraordinary odds.
Gutierrez was born in Ecuador, moved to the United States in 2003 at age 9 and grew up in East Hampton, New York. After receiving a full-tuition Stay on Long Island Initiative (SoLII) scholarship in 2015, she transferred to Adelphi as an exercise science major from Suffolk County Community College.
When Gutierrez graduated in May 2017, she became the first in her family to do so—an honor, she said, that makes her feel blessed. It’s also been a challenge that cultivated a deep reserve of autonomy and independence. “Being a first-generation college student means accepting you’ll do a lot of things without the help of your parents,” she said.
While she had to seek outside help for things like filling out applications and visiting schools, the work ethic and support modeled by her parents gave her the courage to move forward. “My degree means success,” she explained. “I want to set a good example for my little brother and make my parents proud.”
Giving back has always been at the top of Gutierrez’s agenda. She served as treasurer for her residence hall’s Hall Council, pursued Adelphi’s Leadership Certificate Program, and was a member of the Newman Club and the Latino Student Association. Becoming a peer assistant leader (PAL) was most rewarding for Gutierrez, who relished the chance to mentor incoming students. “I could completely empathize with someone who was brand-new to Adelphi because I was in their shoes not even a year ago as a transfer student,” she recalled. “It was a great way to connect with the Adelphi community.”
This summer, Gutierrez will enter the physical therapy doctoral program at Stony Brook University, where she plans to broaden her knowledge of the field and work with diverse populations across Long Island.
To incoming transfers looking to replicate her success, she suggests: “Take this opportunity as a chance to accomplish bigger and better things. Establish relationships, use your time wisely and leave a footprint everywhere you go.”
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