First-generation, Upward Bound alum lands Disney internship

chris gutierrez in front of a castle at Disneyland, wearing a hat with Mickey Mouse ears

Chris Gutierrez, a second-year student majoring in English education, recalls watching all the classic Disney films on VHS during his childhood. He also remembers annual trips to Disneyland with his parents, siblings, and extended family.

“I’ve always loved Disney,” Gutierrez said. “I’d known about the [Disney College Program] since elementary school. I remember watching YouTube videos of college students [talking about it], and I thought, ‘I have to do it.’”

Gutierrez grew up in Fresno and participated in Upward Bound while he was a high school student. Upward Bound, offered through Fresno State’s Division of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management, is a program designed to help first-generation, low-income high school students realize their full potential and prepare for college.

“They would take us on field trips to college campuses… I got to visit almost all the campuses in California! And we would do Saturday Academy here at [Fresno] State, so I got to get familiar with the campus and how college works… We would have workshops on stuff like FAFSA, requirements for college, techniques for studying, stress relief.”

Gutierrez (second from the right) in Disneyland with his Upward Bound cohort

“I joined Upward Bound my sophomore year, and I really enjoyed it… it made me less shy and it just helped me a lot… I felt like it made me grow a lot as a person.”

Gutierrez graduated from Fresno High in 2020 and began taking classes at Fresno State that fall. He hopes to become a high school English teacher and, after earning a Master’s, a college professor.

Gutierrez currently works as an Upward Bound tutor, specializing in English. He said, “I’ve always liked reading and literature a lot. English was always my favorite subject in school… My English teachers were always very supportive, and I thought it would be cool to have that same role and be that same support for students.”

Gutierrez will spend six months at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida as a part of Disney’s College Program, beginning this August.

The semester-long internship is one of three programs offered by Disney for college students and recent graduates in which they may gain work experience in different areas of an amusement park or the larger Disney company, take courses, and connect with Disney professionals.

“I thought that since I didn’t leave my hometown [for college] it would be a great opportunity to have that experience away from home. Especially with Disney World. That’s perfect for me…I still can’t believe it sometimes.”


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