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Jerry Guzman

Graduating in Just Two Years, Greeley Local Eager to Begin Pursuing Law

Graduándose en solo dos años, Greeley Local está ansioso por comenzar a estudiar derecho

Because Sociology major Jerry Guzman's parents were non-native English speakers and had not attended college themselves, they instilled in Guzman the importance of education and hard work in the classroom –También en español

Jerry Guzman, ’23, is graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology at just 20 years old. Though he has only been at UNC two years, he has accomplished so much and still has big plans for his future. 

Guzman’s grandfather first moved alone to Greeley from Chiapas, Mexico after hearing from others about the good weather and job opportunities. He sent money from working on local farms back to his family in Mexico. Then, shortly before Guzman was born, his grandmother, parents and their siblings moved to Greeley too. 

The family hoped to provide a better life and opportunities for their children. While they accomplished that, they had to make a lot of sacrifices including overcoming language, cultural and immigration barriers. His parents and grandparents left behind all of their family and friends, their native language and their homes. They worked mostly in agriculture – laboring on farms that grew onions, carrots and tomatoes. 

Education was always at the top of the list in terms of priorities for Guzman and his parents. Because they were non-native English speakers and had not attended college themselves, their career opportunities were limited. They instilled in Guzman the importance of education and hard work in the classroom in order to have more opportunities after graduation. That’s why Guzman went to a dual enrollment high school – Early College Academy in Greeley, to earn an associate degree while simultaneously earning his high school diploma.  

When selecting where to earn his bachelor’s degree, UNC was a natural choice for Guzman. He could stay close to home to continue helping his family. Plus, he received numerous forms of financial support, including the Federal Pell Grant awarded to undergraduate students who display exceptional financial need the Greeley Promise Scholarship awarded to local high school students who are Colorado residents and the UNC Trustee Scholarship, a merit-based form of aid. 

Guzman lived at home during his two years at UNC so that he could support his family. He scheduled his classes in the morning and early afternoon so that he could pick up his sisters from elementary school and then stay up late to go pick up his grandmother from work at JBS Foods in Greeley. 

Guzman chose Sociology because he loves studying the intersection between human psychology and the world. He plans to continue his education by going to law school and becoming an immigration lawyer. This is partially due to his parents’ and grandparents’ experiences immigrating to the United States. Their inability to read, speak and comprehend English left most of that responsibility to Guzman. He is bilingual and, as the oldest of four children, handles reading the families bills, legal immigration paperwork, FAFSA forms, Pell Grants and other important documents.  

“The turning point that established my dream to become an immigration lawyer was just when my grandmother became a U.S. resident. Although I was young at the time, I eventually learned how hard that process was and how it was (and is) a problem for so many regarding obtaining legal status,” Guzman said. 

At UNC, Guzman’s professors have become some of these biggest supporters both in and out of the classroom. Sandra Harmon, a senior lecturer in the Sociology Department, helped Guzman plan for his next steps after graduation. She introduced him to a UNC alumna and local Deputy District Attorney Tate Costin, whom Guzman interviewed about her experience transitioning from an undergraduate student to a law student. Guzman said he wants to follow a similar path in his own career.  

“[Jerry] is an excellent example for UNC as we strive towards being designated as an HSI [Hispanic Serving Institution]. He is from northern Colorado, a second-generation immigrant who grew up in Greeley and attended and graduated from a District 6 school with a dual enrollment degree,” said Harmon. “He was in my class at UNC his first year, and his excitement for learning and engagement has not diminished but strengthened. He is remarkable.” 

As his college graduation approaches, Guzman has his plans in place to help him reach his goals: he will work for a year, save money, then start law school in August 2024.  

“Jerry is what I see as an ‘ideal student,’ said Rebecca Beals, associate professor of sociology. “He was engaged, prepared, curious, hard-working and enthusiastic about his studies. He has such a positive impact on the classroom community in his contributions to both the academic and social aspects of learning,”  

“[Jerry]'showed up' to class every single day displaying these traits. He never shied away from asking questions or sharing perspectives that invigorated his and his peers' learning. His positive energy is contagious........[he was] also reliably prepared for work that needed to be done.” 

 – written by Christina Abel

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