How You Change Lives. The Maria Gutierrez Story.

Maria-G-staff (2)Hello, my name is Maria Gutierrez. I am an incoming freshman in college, a fourth-grade Power Hour leader at Boys & Girls Club, a former High School Key Club member, and most importantly aformer Boys & Girls Club member.

My journey towards the Boys & Girls Club (the Club) began back when I was in fifth grade. I took the bus home every day and noticed the bus stopped to let kids off at the Club. Many peers always talked very highly of the Club and said it was fun, so I was determined to go to this “cool” Club as well! I told my Dad and he signed me up to be an official member. Well, the Club was more than I could have imagined. Everyone was so welcoming and enthusiastic; so that I went there every day they were open.

By this time my father had been diagnosed with colon cancer and staying at home wasn’t an option for me. Seeing my father suffering through this terrible illness wasn’t how I expected my 7th grade summer to be. He was the first one I told about the Club and what it had to offer. From the beginning my dad always encouraged me to do all my homework at the Club because my homework was in English and my parents spoke Spanish & couldn’t help me much. My dad also encouraged me to participate in classes like ceramics, Smart Girls and etiquette class. My parents were thrilled at the experiences and knowledge the Club was giving me! All these great experiences allowed me to discover new hobbies and guided me through my teen years.

My father passed away on July 18, 2009, and the Club was the last place he ever drove me. I didn’t attend the Club for two weeks, as I helped my mother take care of everything for my father’s funeral. When I returned to the Club the staff welcomed me with open arms. They truly made me feel like I was a part of their family and treated me no differently. The Boys & Girls Club not only was a place where I could get homework help or learn how to shoot a basketball, it was my second home. The Club gave me the chance to get away from the sad environment at home, and to live my young life to its full potential.

As I went into high school, I had lost sight of the Club since I didn’t have a way of transporting myself there. During my sophomore year I found the Key Club, a community service-based club supported by the Kiwanis. This club quickly enthralled me when two Boys & Girls Club staff came in to speak at one of the Key Club meetings about possibly volunteering at the Boys & Girls Club to fulfill community service hours. I decided to volunteer at the Boys & Girls Club and I found myself addicted to it once again. The enthusiastic atmosphere was nostalgic as I stepped in to my old home. I began going to the Club once a week, but that quickly escalated to everyday. I would help tutor with homework, teach art class, and interact with the kids on a daily basis. Through all the activities and projects that I’ve participated in, it had accumulated to be over 100 hours of service!

When school and Key Club were out for the summer, I wasn’t ready to say good-bye to the Boys & Girls Club again, nor any of the kids. I applied to work at the Club for a summer job and now I have been working there ever since! I graduated high school this year and after the summer I will be attending Cuesta College. I still work at the Club and the part-time hours are perfect for my school schedule. It still feels like a second home here and the Staff and the kids, well, we’re like family.

I sometimes think about where I might be if the Club did not become a part of my life at such an uneasy time. I almost feel indebted to this place. I am personally invested at this point. I know how much of a positive role the Club, the staff, the classes and programs had on me and now I only hope I can return the favor and make a difference in the life of one of our kids. I realize that my story is going out to everyone who has made a donation to the Club, so this is my chance to thank you for being a part of something bigger than yourselves, something that changes lives! Your help helped me survive and thrive and become the person I am today. And I know I will go on to do even greater things!