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Resilience and Perseverance: The Story of Fellowship Alum Aaron Gutierrez

By Carlos Buendia Sevilla

I first met Aaron Gutierrez at the 2024 Pueblo Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony hosted at Pueblo Community College. By attending community events that El Pomar helps sponsor I’ve had the opportunity to learn about different communities and their residents. In Pueblo, I found an opportunity to learn from and to share a story from our amazing alumni network.

Aaron Gutierrez is a Pueblo native, attorney, entrepreneur, community leader, and exemplary role model. He is an alum of Colorado College, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) Institute Public Policy Fellowship, Western Michigan University Cooley School of Law, and El Pomar Foundation’s Fellowship Program (class of 2008). El Pomar’s Fellowship, in Aaron’s words, is one that compares to nothing else out there.

Aaron came to learn in depth about El Pomar as a recipient of an El Pomar Scholarship at Colorado College, which is awarded to two undergraduate students who desire to pursue careers in public policy and nonprofit work. College was the best of times and the most trying of times for Aaron, as, during his freshman year, he was diagnosed with brain cancer. Aaron underwent surgery to remove eight brain tumors and endured three rounds of chemotherapy. Doctors described Aaron’s recovery as a miraculous turn of events, resulting in no short-term memory loss, keeping Aaron on the path to graduate. That experience taught Aaron to grab every opportunity that comes his way.

The Fellowship gave Aaron a step up in his career, helped him become a better professional, and showed him areas for growth he didn’t realize he had. He continued to utilize much of El Pomar’s professional development curriculum, such as feedback and teamwork models, as he transitioned into new roles in public policy, nonprofit organizations, and law.

Since undergrad, law school was always on Aaron’s radar. After beating cancer, he felt a pull towards helping individuals with disabilities. While at Western Michigan University Cooley School of Law, he got the opportunity to participate in a public defender’s clinic, which introduced him to a different trajectory to serve people with his law degree and gain valuable experience in the courtroom.

After graduating law school in 2015, Aaron passed the Colorado Bar and was accepted into the Colorado State Public Defenders program. A position had just opened in the program’s Pueblo office, an opportunity that Aaron described as a blessing, allowing him to come home and serve his city with his law degree. During our conversation, Aaron spoke about his time in Washington D.C. with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and we connected over our appreciation for D.C. Yet we connected over the time spent away that allowed us to reflect on the values that will keep us in Colorado: family, our communities, and access to the outdoors.

Starting in 2016, Aaron spent almost five years as a public defender, racking up valuable and rewarding trial experience, but it also brought the challenge of simultaneously overseeing as many as 250 cases at a time. Now Aaron runs his own practice in Pueblo, Garcia Gutierrez Law Group, with his law partner, Carlos Garcia.

When I asked Aaron what keeps him motivated in law, he said without hesitation that it was all about his clients. Ensuring that his clients receive justice is the most rewarding part of the job. Aaron recalled cases surrounding wrongful conviction or involving youth. For him, the emotions from clients and their families reflect the importance of the service he has been able to provide. Aaron’s journey has had many reaffirming experiences working with people in justice and service-orientated work, reflective of his ongoing participation in community organizations like the Boys & Girls Clubs of Pueblo County.

At the end of our conversation, Aaron offered advice to other young professionals and me to be present and learn from the position you currently hold, as today’s skills will carry on to tomorrow.

You can read more about Aaron’s story of resilience and learned lifelong perspective here.

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