Gloria Mutiri excels in just about every sport available to girls at Charles Page High School in Sand Springs. But it’s her prowess on the volleyball court and the mutual support of her siblings that committed her to an out-of-state college scholarship – and helped her to survive the deaths of her parents.
After volleyball games, receiving business cards from visiting coaches became such a common occurrence that Mutiri and her sisters would sort the cards to decide which collegiate volleyball programs to investigate.
“We didn’t know anything about Ohio but that it gets really cold there,” she says with a laugh. “But the third time the coach left a card, I called and we had a great conversation. I knew I wanted to be in a large city but not in-state or in the Big 12 [conference].
“I want to experience new places, try new things. Eventually I felt like Ohio State is the right school for me, and I just went for it. I want to study broadcast journalism, and I’ll be graduating high school early and starting college in December.”
As Mutiri finishes her last season as a high school athlete this fall, she says it was a long road to get to this point. The Mutiri sisters lost their father to cancer in 2012, and then their mother succumbed to chronic heart complications in 2014. This meant many challenges and transitions just to survive.
“My sisters and I were raised with a lot of culture growing up and we moved a lot because my dad was a minister,” she says. “But once we came back to Oklahoma in 2012, a lot went downhill fast. My sisters and I are very close, and we’ve always been very supportive of each other.
“My oldest sister, Faith, had planned on Oklahoma University, but she changed her plans to take care of us all. Now she’s in real estate; one sister is into modeling and another is into dance. It’s been a long journey to get here, to get past just surviving.”
The sisters had help in the dark years.
“When my dad died and we didn’t have anything, we had to start from the bottom and our mom needed help,” Mutiri says. “So many people gave us gas money, meals, took us to school. All this help got us to where we are now and without them, and without each other, we would not have gotten to this point.”
Mutiri will not “start from the bottom” when she moves to Columbus. Her trainer has family in that city, so she will achieve the dream of living in a new place with new experiences and have some familiar folks nearby for support.
“When I visited Columbus for the first time, I got to attend the Ohio State vs. Michigan game and saw how the entire campus comes alive,” she says.
But ties to Oklahoma will remain strong.
“My sisters and I … we always knew we were going to make it, no matter how bad it got,” she says. “Because if you do something every day to get to where you want to be, like when I thought I wanted to be an Olympian, I’d do pushups every day. My sisters and I believe in ourselves and each other. I’m so grateful because I know that has shaped me as a person.
“I know how to appreciate what I have.”