Benito Gutierrez has been selected Merced College Outstanding Student for the month of October.
Benito is a student in the Merced College program at Valley State Prison in Chowchilla. He has taken every class that Merced College has offered on the Valley State campus and holds a 4.0 GPA. He wishes to transfer to a four year university and earn a degree in Creative Writing.
Recently, Benito won first place in the prestigious national PEN American writing contest for inmates in the category of fiction for his short story “La Cadena.” When not in class or working in the Masonry program, he spends every day engaged in a wide variety of intellectual pursuits. He is a member of a public speaking club, he studies Braille, he runs a creative writing group, as well as a screenwriting group.
Other recognitions include publication of his anthology of prison poetry entitled “Out of the Blue” which can be read in the Merced College library. In addition, Benito has been selected by the Pembroke Taparelli Arts and Film Festival to study film and screenwriting.
His nominating professor, Jennifer McBride, says “It is most impressive that Benito has been able to build such a strong academic and extracurricular resume while being incarcerated. This is a testimony to his work ethic, academic ability, and drive to secure success and a productive life.”
Benito thanks Merced College for a transformative educational experience, one that has helped him clarify his academic goals and learn something new every day. He has chosen to donate his monetary award to the ASMC Food Pantry.