Heber Gutierrez '05
Having the chance to meet with Heber Gutierrez '05 recently was nothing short of inspirational. The first burst of inspiration came from walking through the door of the spectacular Bethlehem Area YMCA in the Capital District of New York, where he is the Facilities Coordinator...it really makes you want to sign up for a fitness program!
Far more inspiring, however, is the personal journey of this remarkable young man. Heber and his family immigrated to the United States from Honduras when he was six years old. Like so many before them, the Gutierrez family came to this country seeking greater stability and prosperity, and settled in North Adams, MA where Heber grew up.
The idea of going to college was not something that anyone in the Gutierrez family had ever considered. Until Heber. He thought he would like to try attending a small school, so he did an online search for "perfect small college", and up popped the SVC web site. As soon as he visited the campus, he was hooked!
Heber's first semester was challenging. He enrolled late, and was placed in a dorm with returning students, rather than incoming freshmen. In the long run it worked out well, because he became friends with students at all levels.
It was fellow students Joe Lynch '05 and Nate Ensel '04, however, who finally made Heber feel like he really belonged. They were looking to start a rugby club, and invited Heber to join. Although he was totally unfamiliar with the sport, he was willing to give it a try. He loved it, and went on to become the treasurer of SVC's first rugby club. He'd found his niche. He went on to participate in many activities, including the judiciary board, the cross-country team, and serving as co-chair of Activities for SGA.
The beginning of his sophomore year brought Heber a new roommate...his older brother, Carlos. Heber had convinced Carlos, who had just returned from military service, that SVC was the place to be. They shared a dorm room for the next three years until Heber graduated in 2005 with a BS in Psychology and a minor in Criminal Justice. Carlos graduated the following year with a BS in Criminal Justice and a minor in Psychology. Two sides of the same coin! Heber speaks fondly of how supportive his parents were of their children's pursuit of higher education. In fact, at his Commencement, then-President Barbara Sirvis singled out his parents for recognition, which thoroughly thrilled them, and Heber as well.
So here we are, six years later, with Heber coordinating the fourth most successful YMCA in the country. He obviously takes great pride in what he does and, equally obviously, his staff deeply admires and respects him. Looks like a pretty great ending to the story...but for Heber, it's only the beginning. On September 1st he goes off to serve in the United States Navy as an Officer 03. When asked what made him change his pretty sweet life so radically, he says, "I remember something Lynda Sinkiewich once told us. She said, "Don't be afraid to be who you really want to be." I want to see how far I can go, both mentally and physically. I want to stretch myself. I want to continue to grow, and to help others grow as well."
We look forward to hearing The Further Adventures of Heber Gutierrez, and witnessing that growth. Via con Dios, and Anchors Away!
Sara Diane Nolan, MSW
Adjunct Faculty, The Donald Everett Axinn Division of Social Sciences