Veronica Gutierrez was the first girl in Michael Scrutchin’s class who came up and spoke to him when he attended Chinquapin as a ninth-grader. It was 1991, and he was one of a handful of new students to the school. Veronica was athletic, adventurous, bold, fun, and was one of the more outgoing students from the Class of 1995.
From the get-go Veronica embodied Chinquapin’s core values: she always gave back to the community and she had a passion for education. She was super competitive with her classmates. She was curious about the world, so she traveled, participating in Outward Bound and overseas summer programs while a Chinquapin student, and she brought this curiosity into everything she did.
The Class of 1995 in all of its iterations seemed like a group from the “island of misfit dolls”, and Veronica fit right in. They were a class of different backgrounds, cultures, and ways of life that all came together to form an undefinable bond. They maintain a strong connection to one another and consider themselves family. After graduation, they went their separate ways for college. But they all understood each other on a special level, and they still keep in touch with a group text.
Michael didn’t intend to stay long enough to graduate from Chinquapin, let alone be a part of this group. His plan was to stay for a year and then transfer. You see, he’d always had it pretty easy in school, sailing through his fine arts magnet middle school, and naively thinking he’d get accepted to HSPVA with no problem, simply because he attended a fine arts middle school. When that didn’t pan out, his mother said, “you have two options, military school or Chinquapin”.
His grandmother heard an interview with [former Chinquapin teacher] Pat Lohan on a Mexican American radio station, and she shared what she learned with Michael’s mother. Michael applied and was accepted to Chinquapin after the (then) two-week Summer Session. He met his fellow classmate, Tyrone Hill, whom Michael describes as more than a best friend (“we are brothers”) at the bus stop, just outside Kim Sơn (restaurant) in downtown Houston.
By winter break, however, he was skating on thin ice. Bill Heinzerling’s note that accompanied his sub-par report card made it clear that Michael might not be invited to return unless he stepped up and took responsibility for his academic work. Michael remembers this as a wake-up call, the first time he’d been held accountable for his academic potential. He respected Bill for expressing that level of expectation and accountability, and he realized he couldn’t keep on the same academic path that he was used to and still remain a Chinquapin Burr. “Chinquapin made it cool to be smart”. Teacher involvement and care combined with peer-to-peer accountability convinced Michael to buy into Chinquapin’s mission and lifestyle.
Years later, as Michael and his fellow classmates from 1995 got to a place in their lives where they could give back financially, they agreed to pool their resources and establish a class scholarship to support a graduating senior. They recognized what a major role Chinquapin played in who they are today, and they wanted to make a difference for a fellow Chinquapin Burr.
After the death in 2019 of their classmate, Veronica Gutierrez, they updated the name to the Veronica Gutierrez Memorial Scholarship. Together they review submissions for this scholarship that supports a student who has an unwavering commitment to education, just like Veronica. The 2021 recipient of the Veronica Gutierrez Memorial Scholarship was Nadely Requena. Nadely is completing her first year at the University of Texas at Austin. Like Veronica, Nadely has a kind heart and a warrior spirit for justice. She is studying journalism where she wants to combine her passion for justice with her love for writing and travel. Nadely is well on her way, having already been published this year. Nadely currently writes for three publications, including the “official newspaper of the University of Texas at Austin”, The Daily Texan.