Community School graduate says, “I was so close to giving up.”

Community School graduate says, “I was so close to giving up.”
Posted on 04/19/2021
Community School graduate says, “I was so close to giving up.”

By Kadey Heidrich
Pasadena ISD Communications

During his freshman year of high school, Elias Gutierrez, now 19, experienced a loss in his family. Afterward, Gutierrez struggled while attending his traditional high school and fell behind in his classes. Determined to graduate, but unsure of how to make up his lost credits, Gutierrez turned to Community School. 

Community School is a high school of choice in Pasadena ISD that empowers students to reach their full potential by providing self-paced classes in a blended environment. Community School, fondly referred to as the district’s hidden gem by its staff members, gives students at risk of not graduating from high school another chance to earn their high school diploma. The small school prides itself on providing a personalized experience for each student, calling this personalization their “hidden curriculum.” 

On the day of his high school graduation, Gutierrez spoke about what led him to choose Community School and his experiences in the program. 

Q: Why did you choose Community School?

A: The counselor at my old high school suggested I try Community School. I had a loss in my family, so I left school during my freshman year. When I was in a place where I thought I could come back to school, it was too late. I wouldn’t have been able to graduate on time. 

Q: What was your experience at Community School like?

A: When I first spoke with Community School, they weren’t sure about admitting me to their program. At the time, I only had around 15 credits and needed to take all three of the STAAR exams. They gave me a chance, though. 

Since I had so few credits, it felt like a long process to me. I was at Community School for almost a year and a half. To be honest, I was so close to giving up, but the teachers and the principals wouldn’t let me. When I told Ms. Capra, Ms. Elliott and Ms. Valencia how I was feeling, they told me they weren’t going to let me give up on myself. They said, “You have got to keep going. We’re not going to give up on you.”

Things started to get better after I passed all three of my STAAR exams. I even reached the Master level on my history test. Once I did that, I got my confidence back and started finishing classes like every week. 

Q: What is the environment like at Community School?

A: I really liked that the school was smaller and that there wasn’t a lot of noise. It was good. I remember at my old school the cafeteria could be overwhelming around lunch time. It isn’t like that here at all. Everyone here is just doing their own thing. 

I made friends here, too. No one really gives you problems here. The other students are all focused on graduating, just like you. 

Also, I liked every teacher at Community School. No one ever got on my nerves. (laughs)

Q: You are now a high school graduate. What are your plans?

A: Just make money I guess. (laughs) Actually, I am going to start working for my dad at his foundation repair business. 

Q: How did your parents react when you finished school?

A: My parents are really proud of me for graduating. I’m the first in my family to graduate from high school. 

Q: What do you want others to know about Community School?

A:They really helped me at Community School and they didn’t give up on me. My counselor, the teachers, the principal- everyone helped. They make time for you here. 

Graduation Day: Elias Gutierrez (center), poses with Community School principal Jennifer Capra (left) and Community School assistant principal Randi Elliott (right).