Maria Gutierrez

Maria Gutierrez

A new start

When Maria Gutierrez decided to start college, she had already accomplished a lot in her life—learning English as a second language, raising her kids and excelling at her job. But then, like it did for so many, Covid changed everything.

“I was always attracted to numbers. Math had always been my favorite class as a kid. Then I came to the U.S. when I was 19 with my baby girl and I didn’t know one word of English. I took ESL classes for two years and earned my GED in nine months. I worked at a grocery store bakery for years. But when COVID-19 started, I couldn’t make it to work anymore—I had to take care of my kids—and I started working on my own. Then I got an email from Oakton saying that I could apply for financial aid to go back to school. And I didn’t hesitate. Here I am, working on a degree in accounting so I can get a better job in the future. I might even start my own business one day.”

Making school fit into a busy life

It’s not easy to balance school with work and family, but Maria has made it work. Online classes help with logistics, and the support she gets from her teachers keeps her motivated.

“My dream is to be the first one in my family to earn a college certificate. I am learning things like how to do income statements, how to do inventories, and figuring out what will make profits and how to decide if you should make investments. When I start my own business I’ll need all of these skills. My teachers are so nice and helpful and reply to my emails right away. I can manage my busy life with the kids and work and school.” 

 Helping others find their way

After completing a certificate in accounting technology, Maria plans to continue on for her associate degree. More training will unlock new opportunities, but what’s really keeping her at Oakton is the chance to lead. She’s starting a club for undocumented, DACA, assylum-seeking and refugee students.

“This is my purpose. I want to help students see that they can get the assistance to go to college, no matter what. There are a lot of people who don’t have knowledge about the resources they can have, and they limit their dreams because they don’t know they can do it with help. We don’t need to talk about our immigration status or anything—the point of being together is that we are here, doing something good for our families and for this country.” Learn more about resources for undocumented/DACA students.