Felipe Gutierrez moved to Texas from Mexico 10 years ago and recalled the adjustment to be a struggle.

But not for long. Gutierrez is the valedictorian of the Waxahachie High School Class of 2018.

“[Being an immigrant] it was a little-added motivation. Kind of had to work a little harder than people too,” Gutierrez shared.

His father stayed in Mexico, and his mother raised him and his siblings. Without a father figure in the home, his mother leads by example with a strong work ethic. Gutierrez remembers his mother turning off the television and forcing him to work or do chores as a child.

It was his mother’s strength that made him the person he is today.

Gutierrez credited that home life as the drive to work his hardest and influenced him to want to be able to “one day help her [his mom] and thank her for all of the sacrifices she made.”

Because of his humble nature, Gutierrez waited until the week before graduation to tell his mother he was the valedictorian.

While in high school, Gutierrez found his two passions: football and the medical field.

His advice to the high school freshmen version of himself is to “start early but also do what you want to do. Because, as a freshman, I was listening to what other people told me to do instead of what I really wanted to do.”

It was not until his sophomore year that he let go of the band experience and chased his dreams to play on the football team. The transition from brass to cleats was not smooth, either.

“Some people in the program weren’t happy about it,” he disclosed. “They said I was going to become a ‘football thug,’ and that I wouldn’t achieve my dream of becoming a doctor.”

“My advice is to not listen to those people,” Gutierrez emphasized.

His message to the class of 2018 is to “follow your passion or something you enjoy to do.” When he started listening more to himself instead of others, it was a "turning point."

Now, Gutierrez will attend the University of Texas at Austin to obtain a bachelor’s degree in biology. He will undergo the honor program, Health Science Scholars, which gives the big city feel more of a close-knit impression. With about 40 other students in the program, Gutierrez will be housed with these students and take the same classes.

“The Health Science Scholars is also a learning community. We actually get to observe in different health clinics,” he elaborated.

He will also have the experience right off the bat. For him, the program will serve as a gage to see if the profession is the absolute fit for his career.

“It attaches my love for football and love for medicine. It’s an intersection,” he reconciled.

As of now, he feels a mix of eagerness and excitement about the move to Austin.

He is a Longhorn football fan, though, and anticipates purchasing a season pass. He has only watched the Longhorns play on television, so Saturday home games in the fall will be the highlight of Gutierrez’s first semester.

He also looks forward to the variety of food, concerts, and events that Austin has to offer. He wants to experience it all so he can figure out his identity and what he enjoys in life.

“I want to discover myself,” he voiced.

Along with his involvement in band and football, Gutierrez also participated in the Future Health Professionals, clinical rotations and competed in UIL in math and science.

For clinical rotations, he observed under Marc Roux, a Waxahachie orthopedic surgeon. Under Roux’s wing, Gutierrez realized his passion for the medical industry. He also hopes to become an orthopedic surgeon, as well.

When he reflected on his four years of high school, Gutierrez said he changed the stereotype and impacted the people around him.

“Others thought just because you were in football that you were dumb,” Gutierrez explained. “I want to say that I rubbed off on my peers and football friends and kind of elevated themselves academically and in life in general.”

Ashley Ford | @aford_news | 469-517-1450