Ruben Gutierrez turns convenience of Florence Center into degree from NAU
June 17, 2008
FLORENCE, Ariz. - Central Arizona College’s Florence Center may have its roots in helping prisoners acclimate to life beyond the menacing cinderblock walls and barbed wire, but the residents of one of Arizona’s oldest cities are taking advantage of a chance to earn a degree.
And if you are Florence native Ruben Gutierrez, the Central Arizona College associate’s degree he earned has evolved into a bachelor’s in education and a chance to make a difference in his hometown.
On Friday evening, May 9, Gutierrez graduated summa cum laude from Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff with a B.A. in elementary education that featured an emphasis in mathematics.
“Ruben took a lot of classes here at the Florence Center,” Loida Wooten, who works at the Florence Center, said. “He has always been grateful for the help and assistance given to him by the professors and staff.”
The proximity of the Florence Center to his work site and place of residence enabled Gutierrez to attend classes and take proctored exams during lunch breaks and after office hours.
The result was a degree from Central Arizona College and admission into Northern Arizona University.
“In early May Ruben came by the center and handed me an envelope containing the NAU announcement of his graduation,” Wooten added. “And he gave me a big hug of appreciation.”
Gutierrez’s journey toward a four-year degree began with a scholarship to attend Central Arizona College after graduating from Florence High School.
“I really do credit CAC for allowing me to take classes at both a convenient time and location,” Gutierrez, who has been with the Pinal County Human Resource Department for the last four years, said. “I was actually awarded a CAC tuition stipend for being in the Top 10 percent of my high school class.”
The convenience of the Florence Center allowed Gutierrez to take classes in his hometown while managing a full-time job.
“I didn’t have to drive all the way to Signal Peak,” he said. “I was even allowed to take my exams with a proctor at the Florence Center even though the class was at Signal Peak.”
Central Arizona College became a stepping stone that Gutierrez was glad he didn’t skip.
“It was a great and simple transition from high school to college without taking the huge university leap,” Gutierrez. “CAC prepped me for the college life experience while maintaining the small and minimal classroom sizes. I have to thank CAC for allowing me to get my degrees at a quick and convenient time.”
While his dream job is to ultimately teach honors math at the high school level, Gutierrez has been offered a position with the Florence Unified School District to teach fifth grade at the Florence K-8 Elementary School.
Since he’s already walked the walk, Gutierrez can talk the talk to his students as he prepares the next generation for the Central Arizona College’s Florence Center.