Freshman Sebastian Gutierrez-Olvera is steeped in compassion and deeply aware of what it means to be human.
Hailing from South Lake, Texas, and majoring in electrical engineering, he takes classes at the University of Dallas as well as the University of Texas-Arlington through a joint school degree plan. Gutierrez-Olvera is an activist and a missionary.
Gutierrez-Olvera chose the University of Dallas because of its unique Core curriculum and dedication to independent thought. He mentions that his mother earned her master’s degree at UD and that his father intends to earn another degree here as well.
“Both of them highly, highly, acclaim this school as [one] of the best, that it will teach you to think, and not just think the way your professors want you to, but for yourself,” he said. “I’m looking at all of my other friends in college, and they’re not doing anything like this.”
Gutierrez-Olvera’s mother works in the Neuhoff School of Ministry, according to the UD website. She is also active in Latino outreach, shaping much of her son’s activism in civil rights and social justice.
Sebastian has participated in several rallies advocating for an end to police brutality and racism in America. He felt galvanized when he heard recordings of cops “joking” about killing protestors, specifically people of color, and he decided to join some Black Lives Matter rallies.
Gutierrez-Olvera reflected on his reasons for attending. “It can’t be like, ‘I’m going to tear this place down,’ it’s going for, ‘I love this place and I love the people here, and I love everyone here so much that I want to make sure that everyone can experience this place just as much as me,’” he said.
Gutierrez-Olvera spent a year after high school on a mission trip in Louisiana, which he regards as his greatest accomplishment. Traveling all over the state for various camps, clubs and outreach to middle school students, Gutierrez-Olvera emphasized the importance of forming the youth to build a better community.
“We mainly focused on youth and forming them … establishing goals and teaching them how to lead in situations as well as different values, like toughness, respect, determination,” he said.
He notes that the missionaries wanted to encourage healthy competition among the students, comparing it to his own experience with jiu-jitsu. “You realize, ‘I want to practice this sport so that I can be better, and I only get to practice this because my partner lets me practice this and wants to,’” he said.
Visitations to prisons and care for the homeless also marks an important part of Gutierrez-Olvera’s work. Although the focus of the mission trip was to foster a community for the young, the missionaries also wanted to give back to the rest of the community they were living in.
“One of my favorite things was actually going to the bridge in New Orleans and spending an hour or two with the homeless people there, helping them set up tents, and honestly just talking to them,” he said. Gutierrez-Olvera emphasized the importance of reaching out to the neglected. “A lot of times, people forget that [homeless people] are still people.”
The importance of remembering the value of all human lives shines through in Gutierrez-Olvera’s experience at Angola Prison in Baton Rouge, where he visited death row inmates.
“That one was a bit heavier,” he noted. Gutierrez-Olvera described their exchange of stories, prayers and poems, as well as the hopeful atmosphere created by the inmates who had made peace with their Creator and their lives.
“It was all weirdly beautiful,” he said. “You take the lessons from those people and you start being really careful with the smaller, minute decisions that you make.”
Without a doubt, Sebastian Gutierrez-Olvera’s year-long mission trip and his promotion of racial justice have helped him to grow in the most important ways and finding UD has pushed him to grow even more.