As we celebrate Black History Month, we not only remember the legacy that civil rights activists such as Martin Luther King Jr. left behind, but also recognize the hard work of like-minded warriors of today who, just like him, have a dream and are making an impact in our communities through service.
Cecilia Gutierrez is one of those dreamers. And her strong leadership has demonstrated how people who live in underrepresented communities such as Liberty City can flourish when everyone comes together.
Gutierrez was named a member of the 2016 class of The Miami Times’ “New Generation of Dreamers” when she was president and CEO of The Miami Children’s Initiative, which helps develop and provide quality education, accessible health care, youth development programs and employment opportunities for families in Liberty City and surrounding communities.
She left Miami in 2017 and joined the Obama Foundation as part of the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance team. Three years later, she was hired by Blue Meridian Partners in New York as managing director, operations and stakeholder engagement.
But her commitment to helping children in poverty and working to provide them access to quality education didn’t stop when she left the Sunshine State. Gutierrez continues to fuel her passion for service with a focus on supporting the economic mobility of American families in poverty.
“My commitment to service or even to the work of Liberty City has never once wavered,” Gutierrez said. “I feel like I have brought Liberty City into every workspace that I’m in. I still feel very much connected.”
Gutierrez has proven that her efforts to help minorities, especially those in need in the Black community who have suffered systemic racism for generations, is a primary goal. She’s helped Blue Meridian’s partners invest significant capital in partnerships relevant to that – approximately $250 million over the last two years, by collaborating with other nonprofit organizations, communities and the government.
Through her work with philanthropic activist Geoffrey Canada and the Harlem Children’s Zone, Gutierrez has implemented strategies that have begun to transform communities across the country through place-based partnerships. Every while single step she’s taken in her career has led her to bigger projects, she has always felt connected to her community and purpose.
“For me it’s about lifting people out of poverty, moving millions of children and their families out of it,” she said. “Things are even worse today than they were during Martin Luther King’s time in terms of people’s ability to achieve economic mobility. I think we’re all still deep in the struggle and trying to figure out approaches and strategies that actually work for children in poverty. I feel like I have dedicated my entire life only to serving the most vulnerable children in this country.”
Claudia Morales Miami Times Contributor | This profile is a collaboration between The Miami Times and the Lee Caplin School of Journalism & Media at Florida International University.