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Student builds community through leadership

Juan Giovanni Guerrero is the Associated Student (AS) president at Cal Poly Humboldt (CPH). He is a senior in environmental science management and plans to graduate in the spring 2023 semester. During his college journey, Guerrero has been a leader in many areas on campus.

He joined AS in 2019 due to his interest in public service and leadership. He came second in a race of three candidates that year, but rather than be discouraged by this loss he took it as motivation to hold other responsibilities in AS. Before becoming AS president, Guerrero was the External Affairs Representative.

Guerrero (23) originally from San Diego County, grew up being the second oldest out of six siblings. He says early experiences shaped him into the person he is today.

“My upbringing was ugly,” Guerreo said. “I recall in middle school wearing really old clothes, really ripped, baggy clothes.” He said that his family moved around often, severing friendships and connections with teachers with each move. He struggled with food insecurity saying that access to nutritious foods was a challenge. This led to him being bullied by peers.

Juan Giovvani Guerrero posing for a photo during his shift at El Centro on Dec 5. Photo by Peyton Leone

Guerrero said this was a “very limited lifestyle, limited options in terms of what I could do.”

He credits his teacher Dr. Janet Ilko Ed.D the at Cajon Valley Middle School as the “greatest mentor in [his] life”, for helping him overcome certain obstacles.

Dr. Ilko was Guerrero’s 7 and 8 grade teacher in a class geared toward preparing students for college. Guerrero remembers her as being “like a second mother”. She saw much potential in Guerrero and pushed him to take on roles of leadership. 

“He was tremendously shy and I just watched him, in eighth grade, grow into this amazing kid who started to speak out for himself,” Dr. Ilko said. “I’m extremely proud to be a tiny part of that but it’s the work that he did, it’s the things he overcame in his life— it’s his determination that was always there.”

Guerreros’s determination keeps him pushing into new experiences. This year he joined the volleyball team as a way to “try something new and join something that I hadn’t joined before,” Guerrero said. He also see’s volleyball “as an outlet, or a getaway for any new stress I have.”

Guerrero troubleshooting computer issues during a hybrid AS meeting on Nov. 18. Photo by Peyton Leone

Guerrero plans to one day become the chief of staff in the public service sector, working with state or federal representatives to direct their teams. After graduation he plans to contact representatives to see about starting work in that field.

Guerrero’s other leadership role on campus is at El Centro Academico Cultural (El Centro) as the Operations and Hospitality Specialist. In his role there he serves as a liaison between the student body and El Centro, ensuring that the center is meeting the needs of students.

“I came into that without a lot of knowledge in terms of what my role is here in this space and a disconnect between myself and my roots. It was really cool being in that space and sharing that common feeling with other people and learning together. Learning about our mission and learning what it means to be a leader on campus what it means to be a leader on an Hispanic Serving Institution campus,” Guerrero said. “There is most definitely a lot of room for growth for our campus to own what that means and serving the Latinx community that does come here.”

Aliah Bueno-Strong, the staff lead at El Centro, first met Gio during his 2019 run for AS president. He came into El Centro to ask for support in his campaign. 

“He works very hard for both El Centro and as the student president,” Bueno-Strong said. “You can tell when he’s tired but he just perseveres and goes forward and does the best that he can with the time that he has.”

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