'Knowledge Is Power'
Siria Gutiérrez’s volunteer work is all about helping others succeed through education
Published in 2021 Mountain States Super Lawyers magazine on July 13, 2021
Siria Gutiérrez had never met a lawyer until her first week of law school. “Latino students, in particular, are often first-generation, and they’re not going to have the same access that a lot of our peers may have,” she says. That’s why, in 2008, she helped found Huellas, a mentorship program run by La Voz, a student organization at William S. Boyd School of Law.
The program brings together high schoolers, undergrads and law students with practicing attorneys and judges, giving underrepresented pupils a look at the real-world practice of law. Gutiérrez recalls a critical piece of advice she received as a law student in the program: “One of the first things that [my mentor] told me was, ‘Siria, you have to tell people what you want, because people want to help you. But if you don’t tell them what you want, they’re not going to know how to help you.’”
Now, as a volunteer mentor for Huellas, she passes that advice on—not because the message is new, but because, sometimes, “what matters is who is saying it,” she says.
It’s part of her personal mission to share knowledge, which is why she’s also involved in another organization: Soroptimist International Metropolitan Las Vegas. “I think knowledge is power, and I’m a person who shares knowledge freely,” says Gutiérrez. “It’s all about empowering women and girls through education, trying to lift them up.”
Just one of the local projects she’s been involved in is going to middle schools to help girls visualize their future careers—and then give them the resources to actualize them. “Let’s get them thinking about things a little bit differently for themselves, and then leave them with some tools on how to deal with stress management, how to evaluate these things, and then let them go exploring in the world,” Gutiérrez says.
Whether it’s through local mentorship or scholarships, or international efforts—like sponsoring women in Kenya to go to nursing school—educating women is important to Soroptimist and Gutiérrez alike. “They’ve done studies where they’ve shown when we teach men to be engineers, for example, the men will leave their villages,” she says. “What they found is it’s better if we actually teach the women. … Then they bring that knowledge back to their village, and that elevates everybody in the village. If you educate a woman, you really are educating a community.”