By Rhashad R. Pittman
Teresa Guerrero was born in Mexico to parents who were hard working farm workers and, perhaps as a tribute to them, has advocated her entire life for other families like hers.
It seems only fitting that she would be selected to lead El Concilio’s Modesto office. The organization was founded to serve families from migrant and underserved local communities and is dedicated to bettering the lives of those families. It has been doing so for nearly 50 years.
Guerrero became the site supervisor of the Modesto office in November. She oversees a dozen staff members and a handful of volunteers. The Modesto office provides an array of services for the local community, including legal services regarding immigration issues, immigration forums, English classes, assistance with state food and healthcare programs, and family counseling.
“El Concilio is proud to have Teresa Guerrero overseeing our Modesto office,” said Jose Rodriguez, president and CEO of El Concilio, which is based in Stockton. “Teresa is a respected, accomplished community leader who will help grow the agency services and impact in the community.”
The organization offers much of its services in both English and Spanish. Guerrero estimated that Spanish is the first language for 90 percent of the local residents El Concilio serves.
Guerrero said her main goals for the Modesto site are to raise awareness of El Concilio’s services, continue to distinguish El Concilio from other organizations that offer similar services, and reach a broader array of residents throughout the community.
“We’re here to serve the (entire) community,” she said in a recent interview.
Guerrero has taken over the reigns of El Concilio’s Modesto office at a time of great worry and concern among the Spanish-speaking residents it serves. In her first few months as site supervisor, Guerrero said she has noticed an influx of local residents who have attended the organization’s immigration forums and taken advantage of its services regarding citizenship and immigration law, which is provided by an attorney.
Amid the current political climate, many residents from migrant communities, including young children, are afraid of a loved one, or themselves, being deported.
“There’s a lot of anxiety,” Guerrero said. “We’ve heard that some of the kids are afraid to go to school because they are scared.”
Born in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico, Guerrero graduated from Livingston High School and attended California State University at Stanislaus, where she met her husband Jose Ignacio. Their son Hector is a Ceres High School graduate and former U.S. Marine.
“I’m an immigrant,” Guerrero said. “I am the daughter of a farm worker who came here in the Bracero movement.”
Before joining El Concilio, Guerrero was the executive director of the Parent Institute for Quality Education (PIQE) for nearly two decades. She also was an El Concilio board member for five years.
In November 2005, Guerrero was elected to the Ceres Unified School District Board and is currently board president as she serves her third term.
She’s also held numerous other roles in the community outside of her professional role, including past president of the Hispanic Leadership Council, past president of Mujeres Latinas and member of Graduate of HOPE (Hispanas Organized for Political Equality).
“If it’s good for the community, then we need to get involved,” she said.
By Rhashad R. Pittman