Arturo Gutierrez de Velasco holds two handmade Veterans Day cards.

“I don’t think I’d be here without Moraine Valley. The level of kindness and support I got there still motivates me today,” said Arturo Gutierrez de Velasco, who is currently on the pre-med track at the University of Chicago.

Gutierrez de Velasco’s journey has taken him from his hometown of Tinley Park to South Korea to Chicago, and he has grown every step of the way.

“I was a good student in high school, but I’m the oldest of six. I got into good schools with scholarships, but it wasn’t enough,” Gutierrez de Velasco said. So, he joined the army. “It was an opportunity to develop as a person. Also, I grew up in a family where serving others has always been instilled in me. It’s a core value.”

Two weeks after arriving at Fort Hood, Gutierrez de Velasco learned he was headed to South Korea. As an intelligence analyst, he helped track the North Korean Missile Program and ensure the battalion’s equipment was properly secured. He also trained South Korean soldiers on map reading and intelligence collection equipment during the 2017-18 Korean missile crisis. “We had drills in case they attacked. It was an experience of always being ready,” he said.

After leaving the military, Gutierrez de Velasco returned to the Midwest to be close to his daughter.

“She’s the light of my life. I’m so grateful to have her,” said the single father, who has joint custody of 21-month-old Adelina Joyce. He also decided it was time to pursue his education. “I came to Moraine Valley because everyone was so nice.”

While there, he spent significant time in the Veterans Resource Center.

“It was a place for veterans to hang out and support each other,” he said. He also got involved in the college’s Student Veterans of America chapter, known as Boots to College, which helped him overcome his initial loneliness after leaving the military. “We would go out to get food together. We helped each other study. It was a great time,” said Gutierrez de Velasco.

Gutierrez de Velasco said of Moraine Valley’s faculty, “They are wonderful people who do wonderful things.” He is especially grateful that his former chemistry instructor helped him find a job at Argonne National Laboratory while in school and wrote him a letter of recommendation when he applied to the University of Chicago.

He received a full-tuition leadership scholarship as a part of the Posse Veterans Program, which partners with selective colleges to offer support to veterans pursuing a bachelor’s degree, and is taking classes to prepare for his next step – medical school. He hopes to become a surgeon.

“I think I’ll specialize in pediatrics because I love working with kids,” he said.

Gutierrez de Velasco, the 2018 recipient of the Aileen S. Andrew Foundation Career Programs Scholarship, said he felt Moraine Valley prepared him well for the challenging coursework at the University of Chicago.

“I’m actually tutoring some other students because I had that strong Moraine Valley background. They taught me that I could succeed.”