• July 1, 2024

Valedictorian goes from Greyhound to Jaggie

Valedictorian goes from Greyhound to Jaggie

Nothing can stop Marisol Gutierrez from making her dreams come true, and South Texas College and Texas A&M University are making it easier for her to achieve her goals.

The 18-year-old recently graduated from San Benito High School as her class valedictorian, received an associate degree in general studies as a dual credit student, and now she is the newest member of the fall 2024 STC, Texas A&M Engineering Academy.

But even with this success and numerous acceptance letters from top universities like Texas A&M, Texas A&M Kingsville and Texas A&M Corpus Christi, Gutierrez said she wasn’t convinced she was ready for university life.

“I really wasn’t interested in college, so when I got my associate degree and started receiving these acceptance letters, it became overwhelming to make a decision, until I learned that STC and Texas A&M had an engineering academy right here in McAllen,” she said. “I immediately knew this is where I had to be. It was my dream college, but at home, with small class sizes, at a welcoming campus, it felt like home away from home. I was sold.”

With recent autism and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder diagnoses, Gutierrez said she has had to adjust, but the diagnoses have been liberating.

“I’ve always suffered from anxiety, and as I got older, I felt like I had to advocate for my health to find out how I could help myself,” said Gutierrez. “When I got my diagnoses, it all made sense. I wasn’t the ‘weird one,’ after all. I am neurodivergent. I finally had an explanation, and I had something I could work with.”

Discovering her diagnoses set into motion the process of rediscovering herself, and that includes beginning college in the fall as a student in STC’s and Texas A&M’s Engineering Academy.

“I’m officially an STC Jaguar and Texas A&M Aggie and my outlook is a bright one,” she said. “I have heard a lot of great things about this academy and I’m so glad that it also serves students in the lower Valley, it really is a great opportunity for everyone, and I know I’m going to find great mentors, meet new friends and get the knowledge I need to become a video game developer.”

Becoming a video game developer has been Gutierrez’s dream job since she began gaming in grade school.

Gutierrez will spend the next year at STC, co-enrolled at Texas A&M, and upon completing her classes at STC, she has automatic admission into Texas A&M’s highly competitive engineering program.

GEAR UP Facilitator at San Benito High School Irma Perez, has known Gutierrez since she was in seventh grade, following her progress up to her senior year. New provisions in GEAR UP now allow students like Gutierrez to be tracked through their first year in college to ensure success and completion.

“I am so happy for Marisol. She has worked so hard to get to where she is at,” said Perez. “To receive that No. 1 rank and this opportunity from STC and Texas A&M is a testament to her hard work, and I know she’ll achieve great things. In fact, I know all our students will do great things.”

Gutierrez is one of three scholars from San Benito to be admitted into the STC and Texas A&M Engineering Academy.

“To have STC and Texas A&M serving Cameron County and giving these students this opportunity is worthwhile and we hope to expand this opportunity to even more students within our school district and our county,” said Perez.

As for Gutierrez, her goal is to graduate and transition to Texas A&M in the fall of 2025, become a successful video game developer and earn enough money to help her parents retire.

“They have worked so hard for me and my siblings. They have sacrificed a lot to make sure we succeed. It’s my turn now. I want to take care of them, and I won’t stop until I can,” she said. “Also, I’m finally going to make my mental health a priority, be kind to myself and take care of my mind. I don’t want to lose myself again.”

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