Gurules continue with great story

From the moment Jennifer and Bill Gurule, class year of 1996, enrolled at Adams State College their primary purpose was to improve their personal and professional lives through higher education and to use their skills to advance their community.

Natives of Alamosa, as first-generation college graduates, the Gurules say their education at Adams State College helped them reach their goals, which included receiving their master's in social work at the University of Michigan.

"It was my wife's idea to pursue a master's degree and I followed her lead," Bill said. "In Michigan I felt that I had all the necessary tools to compete with students that came from bigger schools."

Bill, a decorated Desert Storm veteran, used the GI Bill to help pay for his undergraduate degree at Adams State and worked three jobs, two off campus and a work-study position in Upward Bound. Jennifer also worked on campus. The birth of their first child, Darian, their sophomore year, helped to keep them focused, Jennifer said. "It gave us a purpose for why we were going through college."

Another reason was to assist others when they completed their degrees in sociology. "Dr. Martin, (chair of the sociology department) taught me it is very important to advocate for people who can't advocate for themselves," Jennifer said.

"I remember Jennifer as one of the very best students that I have ever instructed at ASC," Martin said. "Both Bill and Jennifer stood out as definite graduate school material and they both were accepted and received degrees from one of the best MSW programs in social work in the country."

Adams State College Professor of Sociology Ted McNeilsmith has known the Gurules since they enrolled in his introduction to sociology class, in 1993. "They quite clearly distinguished themselves by earning two of the top grades in a class of about fifty students," he said "They excelled by every measure of learning that I brought to bear: exams, formal papers, in-class writing assignments, and a collection of sociological 'specimens.' I was struck by their eagerness to learn and by their levels of social maturity."

Bill says McNeilsmith is an on-going mentor and friend. "He helped me with my career choice."

Jennifer currently works at Valley Wide Health Systems and Bill is the chief probation officer in the 12th Judicial District, which serves all six counties in the San Luis Valley. "Our education at Adams State was priceless," Jennifer said. "I wanted to come back in order to give back to the community I grew up in," Bill said.

While they attended school in Michigan, George Del Roso, then director of Alamosa Mental Health, contacted the Gurules and arranged to pay them a monthly stipend each month they were in school and in exchange they would return to the San Luis Valley to work. "We did come back after graduation and fulfilled our obligation, and after leaving for a short time, we are happy to be back. We hope to continue to make positive contributions to this community and the Valley," Bill said.

Bill then went on to become a Probation Supervisor in the 5th Judicial District (Breckenridge), and later transferred to the 10th Judicial District (Pueblo) before accepting the position in Alamosa. "Adams State gave me a good solid foundation," Bill said. "The one-on-one contact with the professors, and their support, was instrumental in our success."

"It is great to have both of the se fine young people back in our community and I wish them all the best," McNeilsmith said.

The Gurules now have two sons, Jadenn, 8, and Darian, 14. As Darian entered Alamosa High School as a freshman this year, the Gurules impress upon him the need to prepare for college. "Education has been our ticket to great opportunities, and we want our kids, as well as other young kids to embrace that as well," Bill said.

Article by: Marine Zabel