Salvador Gurrola Jr.
Photo by Tom Sanders
College of Applied Sciences and Arts
Why did you choose your major?
When I came to SJSU as a freshman I was enamored by the idea of a career in the art of photography. Through my exploration of the arts, I was able to recognize the appreciation I have always had for creating and telling stories through a variety of mediums. I decided to change my major to advertising after realizing that I could use photography as a medium but through advertising, I could be the creative director of culture changing campaigns.
What does receiving this particular award mean to you?
Receiving this award makes me feel recognized by my teacher for the work ethic and unique point of view I have developed at San Jose State University.
Who has had the greatest influence or impact on your life? In addition, tell us about a SJSU faculty member who contributed to your academic success.
World supermodel Rupaul has been the catalyst for my character development both in and out of class settings. The famous Drag Queen celebrity from the 90’s has made a huge impact on me through her popular competition reality TV show RuPaul's Drag Race. Watching this show opened up my mind to self-love and acceptance. Growing up as a gay latino cisgender male in the border town of Nogales, Sonora Mexico was very hard and while it bolstered me to be the person I am today it also cultivated a deeply seeded feeling of shame and inadequateness. RuPaul's words of encouragement and the highlighting of stories from queer men that have found themselves through the performance art of Drag inspired me to find the best version of myself. Rupaul's multitude of songs available on iTunes is a key part of my daily playlist.
Professor Dona Nichols was the first faculty member in any of my schools that vocalized positive comments on my writing. Before Dona’s encouragement and mentorship, I believed that I was a bad writer. I had terrible anxiety and would be judgemental of every word I wrote on the paper. Procrastination is built into my creative process but the anxiety of not believing I could write a good introductory sentence would stop me from spilling my thought onto the paper. Dona’s comment on my unique point of view and naturally honest tone of voice when writing motivated me to be more accepting of my thoughts rather than judging them. I have even started journaling my experiences and personal thoughts that I hope to create music from.
Describe an experience that has shaped who you are today.
The experience that has shaped me the most has to be on the day that I was born. In fact, I was born twice because I had to be given CPR by my grandmother as my mother watched me slowly lose oxygen. My parents lived in the border town of Nogales, Sonora Mexico and Nogales Arizona, USA, they lived in Mexico but had visas and enough money to afford the pregnancy process in America given my father earned dollars rather than pesos. After I was born in the American hospital my dad drove my mother and me to our home in Mexico. Unfortunately, I was born with allergies and asthma and my body did not react well to the environment. By the time we arrived home, I had slowly stopped breathing and started turning purple. My grandmother held me in her arms for the first time and was terrified so she attempted all of her Mexican home remedies. None of them worked so my mother had to call the nurses on the other side of the border. The nurse knew very little Spanish so through a translator she was able to coach my mother through breathing exercises to calm her and my grandmother down. Subsequently, they had to teach my mother how to perform CPR on a baby and she then had to tell my grandmother what to do. They attempted three times but had given up any hope of my body coming back to life. Thankfully the nurse did not give up and forcefully encouraged my family to try one last time. Because of the help of that nurse and her perseverance I am living my truest life today.
What would you say to other students to encourage or inspire them to attain academic excellence?
Find something that you love. It can be hard to discover it but the first step is finding and loving yourself. Once you discover what makes you forget about time and what makes your eyes sparkle, follow it and don’t let it go. The things that make you happy will be your biggest success stories and when you use your life experiences to connect with people, you will feel the most rewarded.
What makes you a Spartan?
I am a Spartan because I have an understanding of the importance of sharing your own story in efforts that other individuals can feel represented and not alone in the world. As well as a deep commitment to using my platform and education to promote the betterment of our community both locally and globally. To use my voice and stories to make the world a better place with every action I take.
Nominated by John Delacruz
Professor, School of Journalism and Mass Communications
"Salvador lives for creativity. A strategic creative thinker, he pushes the limits on every project he works on. He has been team lead on a project developing an awareness campaign for Burnet Middle School and has produced work that excited every client that set a brief for his advertising classes. Congenial, hard working, and a striver who will make an impact in this most creative of industries."