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Milwaukee native Laura Gutierrez leads United Community Center into the future

Laura Gutierrez's journey to becoming Chief Executive Officer started early, with her roots firmly planted in the community
Posted at 7:00 PM, Mar 10, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-10 20:00:14-05

MILWAUKEE — Laura Gutierrez is, by all accounts, dynamic, dedicated and a trailblazer in our community.

Born and raised in Milwaukee, her journey to becoming the Chief Executive Officer of the United Community Center started early.

“I was born here at St. Mary's Hospital. And we lived on 7th and Greenfield. And so, as my parents started navigating the Milwaukee new community to them, one of the first places people told them to go was the UCC,” said Gutierrez.

Laura says some of her earliest memories are from walking the building’s halls, taking folkloric dance classes while her parents took English as a second language courses.

“We were really deep and rooted of my parents trying to figure out, you know, ‘we're trying to learn the language to help you navigate the school system. But, in order for me to do that, you need to be busy. And so, we were all busy here at the UCC,” said Gutierrez.

Laura Gutierrez
As Chief Executive Officer of the United Community Center, Laura Gutierrez is, by all accounts, dynamic, dedicated and a trailblazer in the Milwaukee community.

Around 15 or 16 years old, she got her first job, working in the UCC’s peer program.

Laura says it was around this time that she started to think about her future and the place she wanted to find in it.

“If it wasn't for the support that I had here at the UCC, high school, church; when you look at it and the support my parents had, I would not be the individual that I am today,” said Gutierrez.

She went on to Carroll University, studying biology and Spanish.

After graduating, she worked at some of our area’s chemical companies but soon discovered that her passion was helping people and sharing her love of science.

She then worked as a teacher in the Milwaukee Public Schools for five years before coming back to teach at UCC.

“Even when I run into those kiddos, they will say, ‘Oh, Ms. Gutierrez, you were so firm and you kept telling us to, we had to go to college. We had to do better for our community and for ourselves,’ and so it's very rewarding to run into your kids,” said Gutierrez.

After pivots into the world of state government as the only Latina in former Gov. Scott Walker’s cabinet and working as a principal in local schools, Laura says she got called back home.

She got the offer to step into the role of Chief Executive Officer right before the start of the pandemic in 2020, which she says pushed her to think as big as she possibly could to make sure every single person who walked through UCC’s doors felt safe and seen.

“I truly feel that every client, whether they're six weeks, or 100, are my responsibility. And if the services are not good enough for my family, they're not good enough for the community,” said Gutierrez.

As she looks ahead at UCC’s future, building upon the work started more than 50 years ago, Laura says her life’s mission is simple.

“For me, this is more than a job. Our community deserves the best and I will stop at nothing to make sure that they have the best,” said Gutierrez.

For more information on the United Community Center and its work, click here.

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