Reno People Project Recognizes VPSD

K. Patricia Bouweraerts
Estela Levario Gutierrez Image

TMCC VPSD Estela Gutierrez accepts her Reno People Project certificate and medallion at Fiesta Latin@ on Sept. 23.

Approaching the Reno City Plaza on Sept. 23, tones of guitarrón, trumpets, and harmonic songs by the Wooster High School Mariachi revealed a special event for the community—the Fiesta Latin@ was underway, celebrated as part of Reno’s 150-year anniversary.

After a theater performance by the Teatro Brown Eyes Reno reenacting a scene from a play about the life of painter Frida Kahlo, the stage was ready for a presentation of certificates and medallions to the Reno People Project honorees.

Reno residents have been nominating individuals for the Project based on their unique and significant contributions to the city’s heritage and culture.

Truckee Meadows Community College Vice President of Student Services and Diversity, Estela Levario Gutierrez, is one of these influential people who stepped up to the stage along with 14 other influencers honored in this round of the Project. Reno City Councilman David Bobzien shared a biography for each awardee.

Gutierrez has developed and promoted leadership programs such as the Hispanic Youth Image and the Latina Leadership Program. Mariposa Academy is a Washoe County School District charter school that Gutierrez co-founded with her husband, Jesse Gutierrez. It was the first dual-language school in the region. Because of her passion for education, she also has served as a Washoe County School District (WCSD) trustee.

“In the bigger picture for Reno, I think for any community to be its best is that people give their time, energy and expertise—it’s not just one person, it has to be all of us,” she said. “For me personally, what it comes down to is my own expertise in education. Education is key. So I want to empower youth to find the path to education, because being educated leads to better lives for our children and to make the community better by becoming better citizens.”

Gutierrez arrived in the U.S. a daughter of migrant farm workers, studied diligently in school and achieved her citizenship. She rose from modest beginnings to achieve a master’s degree in educational counseling. Gutierrez is an advocate for those of diverse backgrounds and is actively involved in programs that assist multicultural children and their parents.

She was excited to be on stage with the other honorees.

“There are so many people in Reno that inspire me, there are new people that inspire me every year,” she said.

One mentor especially stands out to Gutierrez.

“The first person who really touched me in my higher education career was Dr. Rita Huneycutt,” Vice President Gutierrez said. “She said to me ‘Have you ever thought about being an administrator? With your leadership skills and ability to inspire others, you need to try this.’

“My students inspire me, too,” she added.

Additional Reno People Announced at Fiesta Latin@

The third round of Reno People Project honorees named at Fiesta Latin@ along with Vice President Gutierrez were:

  • Jessi Beck, the first woman to own a major Nevada casino
  • Teresa Benitez-Thompson, Nevada legislator, Assembly District 27
  • Benson Dillon Billinghurst, WCSD Superintendent, 1908–1935
  • Rev. Onie Cooper who served on the Nevada Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights
  • Nancy Cummings, former Director of the Washoe County Library System
  • Louis Erreguible, Chef and founder of Louis’ Basque Corner
  • Sadie Dotson Hurst, Nevada’s first female legislator
  • Bertha Miranda, entrepreneur and founder of Bertha Miranda’s Mexican Restaurant
  • Rosa Molina, Administrator, Immigration Services Director for the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada (PLAN)
  • William (Bill) Moon, former President of the Reno-Sparks NAACP
  • Daniel Perez, Associate Professor of Chicano and Latino studies at the University of Nevada, Reno
  • Emma Sepulveda, PhD, first Latina inducted into the Nevada Writers Hall of Fame
  • Angie Taylor, PhD, Washoe County School Board trustee, School Board President
  • Ray Valdez, artist, art teacher for Sierra Arts Foundation, and dedicated to outreach with Native American tribal groups

“The Reno People Project is a way to tell 150 stories about some of the people that make up our unique community history,” posted the City of Reno.

A year of festivities will lead up to May 9, 2018—the anniversary of the day Reno was established on May 9, 1868. The next sesquicentennial event will take place on Nov. 11 with a Reno-150-themed Veterans Day parade.

For more information about the Vice President of Student Services and Diversity Estela Gutierrez, please call 775-337-5647.