Rosa Guerrero just smiles when a fifth grader asks why she isn’t dead. That kind of confusion can arise when a school is named after you, and you’re still alive.
The question is familiar to Guerrero, one of this year’s Women of Impact, and it’s her choice when picking which of her accomplishments has impacted El Paso most.
“It was tremendously important (when the Westside elementary school opened 20 years ago), because I’m alive – which is very rare for people to be alive and have a school named for them,” she says. “I go there and talk to the kids, dance with the kids, read to the kids and be a role model and mentor for them.”
That, she adds, is a significant part of her life, because she’s still asked if she’s “Rosa Guerrero from the school or Rosa Guerrero from Folklorico.” Her two or three visits per semester over the years have impacted thousands of students.
A motivational speaker, the veteran teacher with EPISD, UTEP and EPCC also was founder/artistic director for the International Folklorico dance group. She has presented nationwide as an educational consultant and delivered hundreds of presentations on diversity, culture and dance.
“Supposedly I’m a leader, and I’m glad,” she admits. “But I’m also a dancer and a storyteller and all of that – I put ’em all together.
“I’m from El Paso, I’m a Texan, I’m a proud, proud human being. A proud woman. I have my own history.”
Her civic/community activities have ranged from the El Paso Girls Club to the YWCA, El Paso Library Asso- ciation, Girl Scouts, Loretto Academy and VFW Ladies Auxiliary, Texas PTA, St. Joseph’s Altar Society and Visiting Nurses Association, among others.
What’s she proudest of? Namesake school aside, she says her family, which always has backed her – especially husband Sergio. Three children, two of them teachers, and five grandchildren round out the family support group.
She’s never forgotten EPISD’s Hibbard Polk, who helped her get her first job in the late 1950s.
“It’s important to have somebody to open doors for you and you need somebody (out) in the world, because you can’t do it by yourself,” she adds. “These people network for you, back you, recommend you – that’s very important.”
The importance of being mentors and role models is her best advice for El Paso’s upcoming women leaders.
“I think they should organize groups in their own clubs and organizations, and go speak to children for Career Day, speak and volunteer for any type of events, and see how important that is,” she says.
“Somebody’s putting you down? You go forward. You’ll never satisfy humanity, so satisfy our Maker and yourself.”
One learns by volunteering, she adds, calling it a gift God gives you to give to others.
“Don’t be afraid,” she says. “Go for it!”