Started Rio, Going to Harvard

Andrew Guerrero always dreamt of going to Harvard. Now, this Rio alumni will be achieving his goals in the fall.


Andrew Guerrero struggled to reach his dreams but was recently accepted to Harvard's PhD program. Once a Rio student, Guerrero is now finishing up his bachelor's degree at UCLA.

Diana Juarez, Managing Editor

Start Rio, Go Anywhere. We’ve all heard that slogan at different times and from different people. The goal is to inspire us to start our education at Rio and, with hard work and determination, go anywhere. That’s exactly what Andrew Guerrero did.

Guerrero, now 28 years-old, grew up and spent most of his time in San Gabriel Valley, East Los Angeles, and Whittier.

“I got kicked out of a lot of high schools,” said Guerrero, “La Puente high school, and even continuation school, you know?”

It wasn’t until his uncle was murdered in gang violence that Guerrero decided to turn his life around.

“I didn’t want to put my mom through that. And I was headed the same way. But then I thought to myself ‘what’s the most ‘respectable’ thing that a person of color can do? What’s the one thing that makes us look respectable? Join the armed forces.’ So I went to the Marine recruitment center and really, that’s where it all changed for me,” said Guerrero.

The Marine recruitment enter wouldn’t accept him until he got his GED, so Guerrero went to La Puente high school and started working towards completing the requirements to join the Marine Corp. This was what made Guerrero decide to start at Rio.

“I figured, if I’m going to have to go to school I may as well take a class I like,” said Guerrero, “and when I got that first A? Man, forget it. It as a great feeling. I had never gotten an a in anything.”

Guerrero slowly but surely got into the swing of things, and after a few snags, managed to finish a general education associates here at Rio. Guerrero even went to Spain for study abroad while at Rio. He applied to UCLA, his childhood dream school, and was accepted.

“Rio gave me many opportunities and they were always very accessible. Everyone should take advantage of the opportunities here. I think seeing people from Rio go to my dream school helped me a lot,” said Guerrero.

It wasn’t all sunshine and daisies for him, however. Guerrero had to drop out of UCLA after his first year due to personal reasons.

“My family supported me and pushed me to go back and thankfully, UCLA was ok with me going back so I was able to enroll again. Once I was back in I made my own little community with other students of color,” he explains. “I would remind them to look around, ‘UCLA was never promised to us. We worked [hard] to get here. Be proud,’ I would tell them. It was hard because a lot of the time I wasn’t just telling them these things for them, but for me. I needed to hear it, even if it’s from my own mouth.”

He hit the ground running once he got back and worked with Million Dollar Hoods on researching racial profiling in the police. It is thanks to his hard work and determination that Guerrero decided to apply to Harvard.

“I’m skipping my master’s degree and going straight for a PhD. Harvard actually flew me out to see the campus and meet my cohort,” said an enthusiastic Guerrero. His passion for social justice is palpable, and there is no doubt that he is passionate about his work.

Guerrero, like many students at Rio, didn’t have things handed to him. He struggled and fought every step of the  way to get where he wanted to go.

Now, he’s ready to go to Harvard in the fall and see where his dreams take him. It goes to show that you really can Start Rio and Go Anywhere.