A second chance: Leo Gutierrez is thankful to The Goizueta Foundation
In high school, Leo Gutierrez was one of those students who hardly had to crack a book to get good grades, but poor study habits nearly ended his Berry career. Thanks to a scholarship fund designated for Hispanic and Latino students, however, Leo got a second chance – and learned a valuable lesson in life.
Drawn to Berry by the beauty of the campus, the small classes and the soccer team, Leo came to the college from Peachtree, Ga., with a dream of one day working in international business. Those dreams were jeopardized his sophomore year when poor study habits led to the loss of his HOPE scholarship and nearly forced him out of school. With an older sister in law school, his mother out of work, and his father working and going back to school himself, funds were tight.
“It was really rough,” Gutierrez said. “I was thinking about transferring because my family just couldn’t afford it, but I loved the school, the soccer team and the friends I’d made. I didn’t want to leave. The reality that I might not be able to stay at Berry turned it around for me.”
Desperate for an opportunity to prove himself, Gutierrez approached the financial aid office to see if he could get more help. Fortunately, financial assistance through The Goizueta Foundation Scholars Fund, which he’d received during his freshman year, was available to him again and in a greater amount.
“It would have been nearly impossible for me to stay without that scholarship,” Gutierrez said. “It was a turning point.”
Since then, Gutierrez has worked hard to earn the gift he’s been given. Now a junior, he has raised his grade point average significantly, and in addition to being awarded the scholarship for a third year, he has regained the HOPE Scholarship.
With a new perspective on education, Gutierrez is determined to take advantage of the opportunities Berry offers – including the chance to study in Florence, Italy, this spring. While previous travel experiences through his father’s job at Delta Airlines shaped his worldview and hopes for the future, Gutierrez is looking forward to learning how to live in an international setting, as well as making connections with people in other cultures.
“Traveling and experiencing other cultures opened my eyes,” he said. “It made me appreciate everything I have. People complain every day, but in the end I know I’m blessed – blessed to be at Berry and to have the opportunity to learn.”
Gutierrez is making the best of his second chance, pursuing his dreams and seizing the opportunities made possible by Berry’s commitment to raising scholarship funds and by a donor’s generosity.
“I learned to put school first, not to rely on things just working out,” Gutierrez said. “I learned that you have to give it everything you’ve got. You have to realize the opportunity you have and take advantage of it. I want to thank The Goizueta Foundation from the bottom of my heart. They’re the reason I’m still here.”
Story and photo by Alyssa Hollingsworth, Student Editorial Assistant
Originally published in “Berry” magazine