Fresno State grad aims to work in mental health field after earning degree in 2 years

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A Fresno State student cut her college time in half but not her education.

The average college student will take four years to graduate with their Bachelor's degree. Firebaugh native Marissa Gutierrez only took two.

"My parents were right by my side, my friends, my family, so it might seem like it was difficult, but with all the support I had, it was easy," Gutierrez said.

Her drive to succeed both academically and athletically started at a young age.

In seventh grade, she took her first college class. In high school, she joined a dual enrollment program to continue those courses while juggling her already busy school and sports schedule.

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"She made time for friends and family, and there were times when we thought, wait, she is doing high school and college classes. How is she okay?" said Marissa's older sister Janet Gutierrez.

The stamina Marissa built from playing sports all her life may have helped prepare her for the future. In high school, she was a four-year varsity softball player helping take home a Valley Championship. She also played basketball and volleyball.

"Yes, I went through a lot of stress, yes I was up very late at night and tired after practices, but just the person I am, it got me through it," Gutierrez said.

Janet says she's not surprised with Marissa's meteoric rise to success, "She goes after what she wants, she sets a goal, and she goes for it."

Now that Marissa has received her psychology degree from Fresno State, her next stop is the University of Northern Colorado. She is pursuing her Master's degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling.

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She says she's ready to help make a difference in people's lives, especially amid the pandemic.

"There needs to be more people in the mental health field. The stigma needs to go away, and I hope to be a part of that," Marissa said.

For Janet, saying goodbye to her little sister won't be easy, but she also can't imagine her sister not accepting a new challenge like this one.

"I am so happy to see her go and spread her wings like the butterfly that she is. She is going to do great things in this world," she said.

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