Estevan Parra Guerrero: Ensuring support for students

For years Estevan Parra Guerrero struggled to embrace LGBTQ + and his Latino identity. Now working at Intercultural and Gender Center (CCGC) to use what they experienced to help students who may be going through something similar.

When Parra Guerrero came to Fresno, there were few resources available for LGBTQ + students. CCGC was founded only in 2015, one year after graduating with its first degree. Throughout his stay on campus he saw little to no representation of LGBTQ + or Latinos.

“Think of being Latino, facing racism or oppression, but also being Latino and gay. It’s like a double whammy, it’s extra stress. “I want people to understand that.”

Born and raised in South Central Los Angeles as the seventh youngest of 10 siblings, Parra Guerrero said his parents came from Mexico during their adolescence in search of the American dream, but at first had difficulty.

“I remember [in second or third grade] we were in a two bedroom house. Mom and Dad and the newborn were alone in one room. All [four] “The boys and I were in a second room and my four sisters were in the living room changing,” said Parra Guerrero.

Parra Guerrero in the mid-1990s for a photo in the classroom of Wadsworth Elementary School in South Central LA. (Courtesy of Estevan Parra Guerrero)

When his parents started their own pottery business, their success allowed them to move to a larger house and later they bought the house behind it and tore down the fence between them to accommodate the large family.

Parra Guerrero said his family often inspires him and described them as “strong and united” to this day. His first degree in Fresno State was in business administration thanks to his parents’ businesses.

He said he was also inspired by his parents’ willingness to take risks, as evidenced by their decision to move to Porterville to start a new business. However, the venture was short-lived, as it started just before the market crash in 2008 and resulted in the family losing everything, according to Parra Guerrero.

“[My father] He sat us down and said: “We come from the poor. We know what it is like to eat beans every day, and maybe a tortilla. “We will be fine,” he said.

Parra Guerrero’s family on the 40th wedding anniversary of his parents in November 2020. The photo includes his ten siblings and multiple nieces and nephews. (Courtesy of Estevan Parra Guerrero)

Coming to Porterville was a “culture shock”, according to Parra Guerrero. While receiving little guidance from South Central LA schools, counselors in Porterville asked him about his plans for college and how he would improve his grades.

His grades improved, but Parra Guerrero found himself asking why the education system had disappointed him in advance.

“I started to wonder: is it my zip code? Is it the color of my skin? It’s my name;” he said. “I started to feel ashamed of my skin color, my name, my language, my culture.”

He started letting his peers call him “Steven” instead of Estevan in the hope that he would fit in better.

After enrolling in a dance class at his High School and discovering that it was folklore, he dropped out immediately, choosing to attend physical education instead of a class that would emphasize his Latin identity. As soon as he saw a Cinco de Mayo show the next semester he decided to attend the class.

Parra Guerrero is credited with folklore for helping him rediscover his identity and encouraging him to reunite with Estevan, as well as incorporating Guerrero into his surname to regain his mother’s surname and her contributions.

After high school, Parra Guerrero was admitted to San Francisco State University, but chose to study in Fresno State. The campus kept him closer to his family, but far enough away to explore another part of his identity with which he struggled.

Parra Guerrero portrayed after the performance with Los Danzantes de Aztlán, representing Jalisco, Mexico at Fresno State University House in May 2018. (Courtesy of Estevan Parra Guerrero)

“At the same time, I was hiding my true colors from a confused, gay man, a gay teenager. So I said, “I have to go experiment,” he said.

Parra Guerrero recalled multiple instances of homophobia from peers, colleagues, colleagues and even family. He said he was often wary of his behavior, knowing that a single comment or a rainbow bracelet could possibly “take him out” and subject him to homophobia.

He continued to hide his identity after graduation, although this put extra pressure on him. When he started working in Porterville, he was reluctant to move back with his family and often drove from Fresno to Porterville. It was this pressure that led him to leave his family at the age of 24.

“I remember where we were. There was a fire, and I looked up at the sky and said, “Grandma, you better help me with this.” I do not know where I got this courage from. “Maybe it was because I was tired,” said Parra Guerrero.

Parra Guerrero is pictured with mother Magdalena Guerrero (left) and father Estevan Parra (right). (Courtesy of Estevan Parra Guerrero)

It was that night that he told his brothers. Eventually other members of his family found out and while some were initially confused or surprised, they confirmed their love and support for him. He remembered that he was worried when his mother confronted him only to tell him “live your life with whoever you want to live”.

He said, “Now your dad, this will be a different story. You should tell him whenever you are ready. He may stop talking to you for a day or a few weeks. “But he loves you so much,” said Parra Guerrero.

Shortly after he left and shortly before returning to campus for postgraduate studies in educational leadership and administration, he decided to go to a bar for “one last” outing before the start of the semester. That night, he met his partner, Joshua Sherpa.

Parra Guerrero was photographed with his partner, Joshua Serpa, after graduating with a master’s degree in Management and Leadership from Fresno State in May 2018. (Courtesy of Estevan Parra Guerrero)

Parra Guerrero credits his six-year-old partner with helping him through the transition, including the opportunity for another risk: receiving a pay cut and working in a temporary campus entry point.

As his father did years ago, Parra Guerrero took the risk.

His work ethic and networking in this position led to another temporary position that became permanent: his current role as coordinator of LGBTQ + programs and services and for gender.

“Recognition as part of the LGBTQ + community, after the opportunity to work and represent our community in Fresno State, was a disguise for Estevan,” Serpa said.

It was an opportunity for Parra Guerrero to be his true self, while at the same time giving back to the LGBTQ + community. He is in the process of completing a series of tasks that include managing student staff, meeting students who may be experiencing personal crises, working with other departments, and more.

“When people say my job is different every day, I mean it. “My job is different every day,” said Parra Guerrero. “I plan my program and by Monday noon it is rejected because something is happening. That I do not mind. “My job is important.”

Those who work with him applauded his dedication to the role and said that his experiences make him very effective.

“His love for the work he does and the students he serves is very transparent to those who have had the opportunity to meet him and work with him,” said Shimel Her Saychou, CCGC’s interim head coordinator. “Understands the community it serves and finds ways to support the community it serves.”

Parra Guerrero is pictured with Shimel Her Saychou (left) and Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer (inside) in Fresno celebrating Hmong New Year in December 2021. (Courtesy of Estevan Parra Guerrero)

“I think he is able to bring his experiences as a Chicano Latino, as a member of the LGBT community, as a first-generation student, his journey – I think it all gives him a sense of connection to the students on the campus we serve,” he said. Peter Robertson, Alumni Associations Manager.

Robertson worked closely with Parra Guerrero to keep it first raising a flag of pride on campus in 2021. Parra Guerrero took over this year’s pride flag hoistwhere the flag of progress pride was raised for the first time.

Peter Robertson (left), Fresno President Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval (center) and Parra Guerrero at the inaugural Fresno State Flag hoist in June 2021. (Courtesy of Estevan Parra Guerrero)

“He calls me his mentor, something that warms my heart, but also guides me. Every time I interact with him, I learn something. “Every time I see him in action, there are things he does and I want them to imitate in my life, personally and professionally,” said Robertson.

It is clear that Parra Guerrero, who is about to pursue his third degree in educational leadership at Fresno State and has been on campus for three years, has made an impact. When it comes to his future, friends and colleagues came to the same ambitious conclusion: Parra Guerrero could one day become president of the university.

“[In his future] I see the presidency of the university. “If she wants to, she has everything she needs,” said Francine Oputa, a former CCGC director who recruited Parra Guerrero for a temporary CCGC post after meeting at a diversity lab.

Parra Guerrero with former CCGC Director and President of the National Coalition Building Institute (NCBI), Dr. Francine Oputa, when Parra Guerrero became head of NCBI State Fresno after a three-day training in June 2019. (Courtesy of Estevan Parra Guerrero)

Currently, Parra Guerrero said he is focused on improving the scope and depth of services available at the CCGC. While the center once had seven full-time staff and up to 20 part-time students, the pandemic severely reduced staff.

“He should not be a coordinator overseeing gender programs and services, as well as LGBTQ + programs and services. “He should not be a co-ordinator to oversee India’s programs and services and the programs and services of the Asia-Pacific islands.” “What I am trying to achieve, you understand the meaning: [we need] more staff in the center, more distances. ”

Parra Guerrero is pictured with CCGC student staff, including Bryanna Caesar (second from left), Angel Ernesto Barraza (middle) and Lexey Jenkins-Nyce (right). (Courtesy of Estevan Parra Guerrero)

He is ready to take the initiative asking for more staff and representation and is fully committed to ensuring that students find a safe place on the campus he loves.

“I want to retire here,” said Parra Guerrero. “I want to invest the rest of my life in this institution.”

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