The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

Paul Gutierrez: City College student prepares to be the model he never had as a child
City College student Paul Gutierrez. Ulysses Ruiz | [email protected]

Marilyn Franco

Guest Writer

[email protected]


He only wanted to sleep. The court had filed an order that staff members were allowed to restrain the teenager if he left the building. The walls where he was staying were too thin and the screaming voices too loud. He grabbed his blanket and walked to a nearby church in hope of getting some rest.

A staff member found him and yanked him by the shirt, slamming him against a wall. Face smashed and tired, the teenager threw out his arms and started swinging at the staff member. As soon as his fist pounded the staff member’s face, he knew he would have to move to another group home again. He only wanted to sleep.

City College student Paul Gutierrez, 19, has lived an inconsistent life since the age of 2. Everyone assumed the young trouble-maker would follow the same path as others close to him− into a life of drugs. Going in and out of group homes and dealing with addictive traits, Gutierrez was born a fighter.

Eventually, this Winters’ resident dramatically changed his life. With the help of two Winters High School teachers, he turned everything around. Now he uses his past as motivation to become a social worker, so he can help kids who are in the situations he was once in.

“He was an insecure, impulsive, self-destructive kid and now he’s someone I’m proud to call my surrogate son,” says WHS teacher Raena Lavelle.

His life wasn’t easy. As a toddler, Gutierrez was stripped from his parents’ custody and sent to live with his grandparents in Winters. But as a teen, he was forced to leave. His grandparents kicked him out for getting into too much trouble. At the time, Gutierrez says he was experimenting with alcohol, marijuana, ’shrooms, Ecstasy and opiates.

When he was 12 years old and in the sixth grade, he was arrested for breaking and entering, and one week later, for being drunk in public, says Gutierrez.

“I was transferred to a group home for my next 2 1⁄2 years of life,” says Gutierrez.

The group home was life-changing for Gutierrez. Aside from being alone and away from family, Gutierrez also had to protect himself.

“You always had to keep your guard up,” says Gutierrez. “The kids didn’t have any hope in the group homes. Behavior was so bad because there was no hope.”
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If the kids in the group homes thought they could benefit from stealing or ratting on each other, they would do it just to get by with their lives, says Gutierrez. Even staff members couldn’t be trusted.

“They would also steal and blame it on another kid,” says Gutierrez. “If you tried to say something, you’d get beat up.”

Moving among three different group homes in the Sacramento area and being told he wouldn’t amount to any good, Gutierrez frequently ran away from group homes because of the stressful environment.

“It was probably the toughest time of my life,” says Gutierrez.

However, Gutierrez is a natural fighter. He didn’t let the negative environment take control. Now, he doesn’t let his history affect him.

“I used all my negativity to turn it into a positive thing in my life,” says Gutierrez.

He was able to get out of the group home if he promised to stop running away for a month and a half. His grandparents agreed to the deal and Gutierrez went back home when he was 15 years old. By that time, he was already a freshman at Winters High School. He admitted that things didn’t really change much after he got out. That was until he met teachers Raena Lavelle and Andrea Hurst.

“He had the focus and the drive that got himself off the destructive path he was on and onto one with a solid future,” says Lavelle.

Lavelle and Hurst understood what he was going through and encouraged him to participate in sports, says Gutierrez. Joining football and track taught him how to work with people and to show respect. He also learned the rewards of hard work and dedication.

Today, he is a hard-working college student who wants to make a difference. He is going to school for a degree in social work and wants to make a change to the way group homes are run. Even now, Gutierrez has little contact with his parents, but he says he is thankful for his grandparents and the people who motivate him to become a better person. Even more, Gutierrez is a loyal friend.

“Paul’s a big-hearted fool who is on the path to success,” says City College student Christian Cushman. “He has always been there for me.”

People who knew Gutierrez assumed he would live up to his reputation as a troublemaker. But he is a tough fighter, who doesn’t worry about getting enough sleep anymore. Instead, he focuses on how he is going to reach his highest dream.

“I don’t think anyone thought I would accomplish anything or change my life around for the better,” says Gutierrez. “I changed everything.”

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