Maritza Gutiérrez: A Leader in the Classroom and Community

Maritza del Socorro Gutiérrez, a resident and native of Santa Maria del Cedro, Nicaragua, knows what it means to be denied an education. When she was a child in the 1980s, the Nicaraguan Revolution forced her out of school because her parents didn’t think it was safe enough for her to attend classes.

Driven by a deep passion for learning, Maritza didn’t let her circumstances define her future. In 1993, at the age of 17, she started studying to become a teacher.

Because of how low teachers’ salaries were in Nicaragua, Maritza decided to seek opportunities abroad. But she never intended to stay away from home too long. After five years of working and saving in the United States, she returned to Nicaragua with a newfound sense of purpose.  She used her savings to purchase land near her community, eventually buying two properties.

Though she had become financially secure, that didn’t replace her desire to make a lasting impact in her community. Like many teachers, Maritza’s heart belonged in the classroom, nurturing the young minds of Santa Maria del Cedro. So she returned to teaching, out of love for the work.

Santa Maria del Cedro’s school served the community well, but wasn’t meeting the students’ needs by the time Maritza began teaching there.

But even the best, most dedicated teachers struggle to teach in subpar learning environments. The school where Maritza taught in Santa Maria del Cedro was an older structure that had been battered by the elements over time. When it rained, students often had to move their desks to avoid the water that dripped from the old, leaky roof. 

Maritza longed for a safe and secure learning environment for her students. “We had always dreamed of a good and beautiful school,” she says. For years, she tirelessly sought assistance from local authorities but never received any. Her community is located between two larger towns, so she looked for support from both Mayors. But neither would help her.

Finally, a glimmer of hope arrived–a new mayor was elected, and buildOn learned of the community’s situation. We jumped into action to build a new school in Santa Maria del Cedro! Maritza became an integral part of the project. She served on the Project Leadership Committee (PLC), motivating her neighbors to help build their new school.

We had always dreamed of a good and beautiful school.

Maritza del Socorro Gutiérrez

Maritza put everything she could into the project. She brought a water pump and obtained yards of hose to make sure workers had water at the worksite. When the builders needed ladders, she brought two from her home. She would even come around in the afternoons to keep volunteers company and give them coffee, drinks, and cookies.

Maritza’s students love their new school!

When the new school was completed, it marked the end of 20 years of hard work for Maritza. Her students finally have a safe, sustainable space to learn and grow. And with a dedicated teacher like her, their futures are bright.

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