As he was walking through the forest near his family’s ranch, Guerrero came across the body.
“I was freaked out,” Guerrero said. “I was traumatized for like a month.”
It was that kind of incident that caused Guerrero to feel unsafe in his native land. But Guerrero escaped that scene when he came to the United States at the age of 12.
On Wednesday, March 15, Guerrero was one of 16 high school students from Clovis Unified who was honored at the Foundation for Clovis Schools’ Annual Students of Promise Dinner.
Held at the Clovis Veterans Memorial Building, the red-carpet gala honored high school juniors who overcame unique challenges.
“There were a lot of crimes where I used to live,” Guerrero said. “The school wasn’t really big. There were like 30 students. The teachers weren’t very good at teaching. They used to hit us a lot.”
Guerrero also grew up fearing the cartels, who controlled the area where he grew up.
“We weren’t safe there,” he said. “When I was over there I had like a depression, but when I came here I decided to start from zero.”
With his biological father having left the family when Guerrero was 6 years old, Guerrero came to the U.S. with his mom and his stepdad.
“I was really excited to come, but I have to admit that I was scared,” Guerrero said. “I didn’t know English. I heard that people here were mean. It turned out that they were super nice, most of them. I was just really excited that I had the opportunity for a better education and to learn a new language and meet new people.”
Guerrero, who now attends Clovis High School, first found it difficult to fit in with American kids at school.
“I would eat lunch in the bathroom because I didn’t know anybody and I was super scared,” he said. “After a month, I met new people and I just went along with the flow.”
Guerrero’s translator also made life easier.
“Somebody sent me an instructor. When I was in class she would translate for me, which made it really easy for me to learn English,” Guerrero said.
Given in a student’s junior year, the Students of Promise award is designed to encourage students to enter their senior year with hope, knowing a scholarship from the Foundation awaits them for use in post-secondary education.
“We want them to know we believe in them and to finish strong,” Foundation Chairperson Michael Fennacy said.
Alecsis Tipton was also an award recipient on Wednesday at the Students of Promise Dinner.
Tipton was 12 years old when her mom passed away from an overdose of meth.
“I had to grow up really fast,” Tipton said. “I had to learn that not everybody is going to be there for you all the time. You just have to learn to pick your friends and pick your people.”
With her parents sharing custody, Tipton used to go back-and-forth between her parents. After her mom passed away, however, Tipton moved in with her father and her sister.
Tipton said her father has taught her to be careful of who she trusts, to put herself first and to remember how to succeed in life.
With her father’s guidance, her faith and an unbreakable bond with her sister, Tipton overcame the challenges of her early life and found success at Clovis High.
“How I got through it was through Jesus Christ and my sister has been with me through it all,” Tipton said. “I’ve had so much support from my whole family.”
After finishing her education, Tipton hopes to help other kids who may have similar experiences like herself.
“My goal is to get my master’s in social work and hopefully impact a child like myself going through things. I want to show them that you can get somewhere in life as long as you trust yourself and trust God.”
As for Guerrero, he plans to attend University of California, Davis after high school.
“I want to be a doctor. I don’t know what kind of doctor yet, but I would like to have a medical career,” he said. “On the side of that, I want to be a music producer. I really like music.”
Looking back at his journey, Guerrero said he doesn’t have any regrets.
“It made me who I am,” he said. “I just have to say that whatever you’re going through is for your own good. Nothing is too hard for you to overcome.”
Photos and bios of all 16 students to appear in our upcoming April 5 issue.
2017 CUSD Students of Promise:
- Hailey Berryman
- Parker Fritsch
- Ramiro Corral Guerrero
- Catalina Alvarez Pashon Hernandez
- Kayli Jankowski
- Shealeigh Keeney
- Kia Lee
- Audra Magness
- Pablo David Perez
- Katelyn Robinson
- Nadine Rodriguez
- Princessa Destiny Ruelas
- Alecsis Tipton
- Vichai Thao
- Brandon Vang
- Alexis Watts