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Dream of becoming nurses shared by two Don Bosco Cristo Rey seniors

At left, Gabriela Salaverria-Gutierrez, a member of the class of 2024 at Don Bosco Cristo Rey High School in Takoma Park, Maryland, will attend Georgetown University this fall and study nursing. At right, Pelotty Souffrant, a member of the class of 2024 at Don Bosco Cristo Rey High School, will attend Notre Dame University of Maryland this fall and study nursing. (Photos courtesy of Don Bosco Cristo Rey High School)

Family experiences and a desire to help others have spurred Gabriela Salaverria-Gutierrez and Pelotty Souffrant from the class of 2024 at Don Bosco Cristo Rey High School in Takoma Park to study nursing in college.

Witnessing nurses’ care

Gabriela Salaverria-Gutierrez, who will be attending Georgetown University on a scholarship, as a young girl was inspired by the nurses at the university’s hospital to become a nurse someday.

“It started with my sister Pilar, who was diagnosed with lupus at an early age,” Salaverria-Gutierrez said in an interview. “I spent my life at Georgetown Hospital with her. I always noticed how the nurses were so kind and sweet to her, especially as she was going through pain and suffering. Seeing the way the nurses cared for her made me realize not a lot of children have that, so I want to be that person for them.”

Her dream of becoming a pediatric nurse has been inspired by the example and encouragement of her parents, Jose Salaverria and Yency Gutierrez, who are immigrants from El Salvador. Her father works at a restaurant in Washington, and her mother is a housekeeping supervisor at a hotel in the city. Her older sister Pilar, who received a kidney transplant from their father, is now healthy and living and working in Florida. A younger brother, Elmer, is a freshman at Don Bosco Cristo Rey, and another younger brother, Joseph, is an elementary school student.

Salaverria-Gutierrez said she learned the importance of commitment and hard work from her parents.

“My father always told me when I was younger, that I could be whoever I wanted to be. He never gave me restrictions or limitations to who I am now,” she said, adding, “My mom has always been my number one supporter. She’s also one of my heroes, like my dad.”

The Don Bosco Cristo Rey senior, who was born in the Washington area, received her sacraments of Baptism, First Communion and Confirmation at the Shrine of the Sacred Heart. Now she also attends St. Ambrose Church in Cheverly, where she participates in the Angels of God Youth Group.

At her high school, which is sponsored by The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington and the Salesians of Don Bosco, Salaverria-Gutierrez like her fellow students participates in its innovative Corporate Work Study Program, where students gain experience working at leading Washington-area businesses, organizations and institutions and help pay for nearly one-half of their education costs.

During their freshman year, the COVID-19 pandemic prevented the students from going to job sites as part of the Corporate Work Study Program, but they took online sessions to learn workplace skills. As a sophomore and junior, Salaverria-Gutierrez did administrative work for the Furey, Doolan and Abell, LLP law firm in Bethesda. “The people there were so kind and loving to me. I miss them!” she said.

Then during her senior year, Salaverria-Gutierrez through her school’s Corporate Work Study Program served as an intern back at the place where she was inspired to become a nurse, at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital. She was excited to be a part of the environment there, she said.

“Even though I already made my (decision for a) career path as a pediatric nurse, it’s interesting to know about other health careers,” said Salaverria-Gutierrez, who interned in the hospital’s occupational health department and also had the opportunity to meet and speak with health workers from other areas of the hospital.

The future nurse said she has really enjoyed her experience at Don Bosco Cristo Rey. “The community here, because it’s a small school, it’s easier to make friends. You can go around the corner and meet someone you know. I really like that,” she said.

At Don Bosco Cristo Rey, she served as the president of its National Honor Society chapter, helped plan events for the senior class, played volleyball for three years, and tutored students in Spanish and geometry. The school is organized in a house system combining students from different grades, and she has been a house leader there.

“I like leading them and being an example” to fellow students, Salaverria-Gutierrez said, adding, “I want to be an inspiration to others, the way people inspired me.”

Salaverria-Gutierrez said she appreciated her Catholic education there, and how her faith can help guide her in life. Attending Georgetown University is a special accomplishment for the student, who noted, “I will be the first in my family to go to college. To me, it’s something unique and special.”

One day she hopes to become a pediatric nurse, like the nurses who once helped her sister. “I like to think that’s one of my purposes in life, to serve and help others,” she said.

A shared dream

That sentiment was echoed by fellow Don Bosco Cristo Rey senior Pelotty Souffrant, who will be studying nursing this fall at Notre Dame of Maryland University in Baltimore and hopes to be a travel nurse some day.

“Growing up, I always had a need for helping people without being asked,” he said.

Souffrant also has been inspired by the example of hard work by his parents, who are immigrants from Haiti. His father, Pierre Souffrant, has his own car upholstery business, and his mother, Marie Joseph, works as a doctor’s assistant. His older brother, Djetry Joseph, graduated from Drew University in Madison, New Jersey, and now works in a data entry job in Texas.

Before attending Don Bosco Cristo Rey, Pelotty Souffrant graduated from St. Francis International School in Silver Spring, and he and his family attend Our Lady of Sorrows Church in Takoma Park.

For the past three years as part of his school’s Corporate Work Study program, Souffrant has worked at the Ernst & Young accounting firm in the Tysons Corner area, where he said he has learned patience and new technology skills.

“Coming to Don Bosco opened a lot of doors for me,” he said, noting that he attended a national conference for Cristo Rey students this past summer in Atlanta, and he has also helped out as a student leader in the summertime bridge program that introduces incoming freshmen to life at the school.

At Don Bosco Cristo Rey, Souffrant is a senior class representative in the Student Government Association and is president of the Caribbean African Students Association there and also participates in the school’s Black Students Alliance.

A recent International Night at the school featured food, music and dancing reflecting the different cultures and countries of students’ families.

“Being part of a diverse community, you get to learn a lot of different things… you get an understanding where people came from,” he said, noting how when he came to the school, he taught Haitian Creole to some fellow students, and learned Spanish from some of his classmates.

Souffrant also expressed appreciation for his Catholic education, saying a key thing he has learned is that, “When times get hard, just keep praying, and things will get better.”

Like his classmate, his dream of becoming a nurse is centered around a desire to help and care for others. “As a nurse, I want to accomplish being there for others through hard times,” Souffrant said.