Michelle Gutierrez Jimenez

Michelle Gutierrez Jimenez is a third generation Phoenician. She was born and raised in South Phoenix of Arizona, and her parents were born and raised in Central Phoenix. Her grandparents moved to Phoenix from other states and Mexico.

Gutierrez Jimenez is a former dean, assistant principal, and academy administrator of South Mountain High School, where she was once a student herself and graduated there in 1992. She’s currently the Assistant Principal for Registration at Camelback High School.

Michelle Gutierrez Jimenez, Interview April 2021.
Image from interview, provided by SPOH.

Michelle was born in 1974 and grew up in Arizona with her parents and grandparents. Her
favorite childhood memory was going to her nana’s house. In school, she struggled with mathematics. When she was a sophomore, she heard about a program called the ACE program at South Mountain community College.

Insert clip Michelle’s childhood-> 4:16-4:49

The ACE program allows high school sophomores, juniors, and seniors to get college credits, further preparing students for their careers. In the beginning, Michelle didn’t want to join ACE
because she thought that her efforts wouldn’t be enough. Her mom urged her to apply
though. When she joined, she was glad to see that people from her community or with a similar
background were also a part of the ace program. In her senior year of high school, Michelle was
undecided about her future so she decided to work at a dry cleaners instead. There, at work, she met a woman named Angelica who told her “Well, you’re being a stupid girl because you have opportunities, and you’re not taking advantage of them.” Michelle realized that Angelica
was right and that she should take the opportunity given to her and take college classes.

Insert clip about her jobs-> 14:28-15:10

Landres “Buddy” Cheeks was the ACE advisor at the time, and he helped Michelle immensely to register for college classes. Buddy and others at South Mountain Community College greatly encouraged Michelle to continue with her studies. After college, Michelle entered the workforce, got married, and started a family.

Insert clip about Michelle’s greatest challenge/accomplishments-> 38:27-40:55

The greatest challenge Michelle faced was raising her daughter as a single parent after
getting divorced. It was hard for her to go back to school and take care of her daughter even with
her ex-husband being supportive and active in her life. Michelle had her family and friends to support and help her, and she was able to push herself to continue college while working. Her daughter kept her motivated, and it is one of Michelle’s proudest achievements that she managed to push herself in order to have the career she wanted so that she could provide the best for her daughter.

Insert clip about Michelle’s grandmother here-> 15:26-16:37

Michelle is grateful for many good people in her life, but it’s her grandmother who shaped her to
be who she is today. She talks about her and how she remembers when her grandmother told her about the time she marched with Cesar Chavez. Her grandmother and grandfather, “Tata Andy”, worked together in the fields; her Tata was a WW2 veteran and could only find work in the fields which, back in the 1960s, was difficult and underpaid labor, especially for Mexican-Americans.

One night, her grandmother and the ladies at her church were talking about Cesar Chavez who
was fighting for the rights of farmworkers and giving them better pay, and how he was coming to
Phoenix to help and protest with everybody there. So her grandmother got to meet him and
march with him; she then shared these experiences and stories with Michelle when she was
growing up. Her grandmother is the most influential person in her life because of her inspired
sense of activism in Michelle’s daily life. As a teacher and a school leader, she also fights for
equality and opportunity on behalf of underserved students. During her time at South Mountain
High School, she understood her community and listened to her students’ points of view about
problems that needed to be solved.

Insert clip Michelle’s legacy-> 41:54-42:10

Michelle Gutierrez Jimenez demonstrates that you have more potential than you think about
yourself. Her work with the ACE program helped her push herself to continue college when she
began working as a counselor to change careers to an assistant principal in order to continue
encouraging students at South Mountain High school to go to college. Michelle is proud that she
could be there for her daughter and of the work she’s done for her community which she will
continue to work hard for.

NarratorMichelle Gutierrez Jimenez
Place of OriginSouth Phoenix, Arizona
Place of ResidenceSouth Phoenix, Arizona
Years Active in South Phoenix
Recording Duration45:53
Interview DateApril 8, 2021
Interview LocationZoom
Interviewed byStudent Researchers: Angela Rodriguez Ramos &
Mairim Ortiz Guevara
Story Written byStudent Researchers: Angela Rodriguez Ramos &
Mairim Ortiz Guevara;
Metadata Table