Student Story

Rebuilding Minority-Owned Small Businesses with Natalia Guerra ‘23

For Natalia Guerra ‘23, the recent wave of protests demanding change in the face of systematic racism has hit home and prompted her to consider how she can have a positive impact in her community. That desire is the spark behind a new fundraising effort she’s launching to help minority-owned businesses. 

“My parents raised us to be racially and socially aware,” she said. “They taught us to respect everyone no matter what their background is or where they come from. It’s mindboggling that not everyone has the same respect for people.” 

Guerra, who is a nursing student and member of the Simmons volleyball team, lives in Massachusetts and calls Boston her second home. She grew up in a Latino household – her father immigrated to Massachusetts from Chile as a teenager, and her mom’s family moved to Lawrence from the Dominican Republic. 

Her parents came to America knowing they wanted a better life for their family. Guerra attended predominantly white elementary, middle and high schools. Downplaying and even hiding her identity was a routine part of this experience.

“I stopped speaking Spanish, even at home and I wouldn’t bring homecooked meals to school,” Guerra said. “My brothers are darker skinned and people would yell at them to go back to Mexico. Growing up with that makes me realize that I need to be an ally to the Black community. It doesn’t matter what your background is. Everyone deserves equal treatment.”

Guerra was unable to attend the recent protests in Boston because of her family’s social distancing guidelines that are necessary to protect vulnerable members of her family from exposure to COVID-19.

“I really wanted to be at the protest, but because I couldn’t go I tried to think of another way I could support my friends and the Black community,” she said. “I wanted to make an active change.”

She saw a video of a minority-owned business in Minneapolis that was destroyed. Growing up, she watched her parents “pour their blood, sweat and tears” into their family-owned Lawrence-based real estate business, which is named after the first initials of each of the three Guerra children. 

“I know how much work and sacrifice it takes to start a small business, and many were already struggling because of COVID,” Guerra said. “I started this GoFundMe page and I’ve been amazed at the response. It’s really taken off. I think people want to come together and help these small businesses.” 

Guerra also credits her experience at Simmons for supporting her desire to get involved and make a difference.

“Simmons is a great community and has really inspired me to be an activist and a feminist.”

To date, Guerra has raised more than $4,500 and she’s exploring different businesses that need help. Despite the devastating toll of the pandemic and appalling acts of racism we’ve witnessed, Guerra remains optimistic.

“I know a lot of people who say 2020 is the worst year ever, but I found a quote that really resonates with me,” she said. “The quote suggests 2020 may be the year we need so that we open our eyes and finally accept the need for change. That positive outlook is what we need in a year like this.”

Visit Guerra’s GoFundMe effort to learn more.

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