2021 Dottie Lamm Award Winner Natalie Guerra
Natalie Guerra Speaks About the Strength She Has Discovered and Used to Create A Better Life for Her Family
Every year the Dottie Lamm Leadership Award honors a young woman’s commitment to advancing and accelerating opportunities for women all across the state. We celebrate her resilience and leadership on her own path to economic security. Our 2021 Dottie Lamm Leadership Award winner is Natalie Guerra of Denver. Here is her speech from our 2021 Annual Luncheon.
Hello, I’m Natalie Guerra, your 2021 Dottie Lamm Award Winner. Thank you for letting me share my story.
I’ll never forget, it was a Tuesday morning, I was only 7 and my sister was 2. I woke up to my mother making a fuss. She was angrily throwing things into a suitcase and mumbling words I could not understand. I vividly remember her dropping me off at school. I was sitting in my blue booster seat next to my sister when she said she was leaving our family and taking my sister. Along with this declaration came an ultimatum: “You can come with me or stay with your Dad”
Quite a big choice for a second-grader. But I knew I couldn’t leave my dad. So I got out of the car, and watched them drive away.
For months, it was just my dad and me. There was a huge void in our home where my mom and sister used to be.
I taught myself how to cook and clean and I thought, “will filling the house with smells of my mother somehow reunite my family? I’ll do anything.”
One evening the phone rang at 3 am, it was my Aunt in California. She told us my mother had abandoned my sister. I could hear Kristell’s toddler cries. My dad and I dropped everything, got in the car, and drove eighteen hours to California.
I hadn’t seen my sister in 3 months. The moment we saw each other we broke down into tears. I still think about the hug she gave me.
After my mother left, my dad battled an alcohol addiction. He struggled to support us and play the role of two parents. My childhood ended quickly. In second grade, I became my father’s right hand and a parent figure to my sister.
My dad had a rough patch, but since then has really turned his life around. He is the reason for my dedication and resilience. Around thirty years ago, my dad arrived by freight
train in LA from El Salvador. He only spoke Spanish, had no money, and no family. He bounced between abandoned houses and homeless shelters. He struggled with drinking, but after I was born, he understood the magnitude of responsibility he had as a father.
My dad never lets me forget the importance of education. Countless hours of studying remind me I am a first-generation American who needs to graduate high school and go tocollege. Along with this pressure comes the question, “what do you want to be when you grow up?”
The answer? I’ve known since I was four. The day my baby sister was born changed me. I knew I wanted to be just like the doctor who delivered her.
The journey to medicine inspires me. I want to change the arc of my families’ story. As I’ve become a woman, I’ve learned my passion. That day in the delivery room, I understood how powerful women are. I aspire to be a doctor who helps women become the most powerful version of themselves.
I will never give up on my dreams, but if I’m being honest, it’s been difficult. At home, I’m not only a student and daughter, I have the duties of a mother. I’ve learned how to balance it all. For a child, it was a lot. But I did it. And through perseverance and hard work, my dad has crafted a real family with a daughter who embodies the best parts of him: Motivation, resilience, and independence.
WFCO knows that women and girls can do anything and be anything, and they’re right. I wouldn’t be standing here in front of you if it wasn’t true.
Thank you to The Women’s Foundation for leading and helping create the path for women all around us — for instilling this belief.
As I move on to the next phase of my life, I plan to (hopefully) attend Barnard College in New York, and major in English Literature with a focus on Pre-Medicine Studies.
My story is not something I share often, but looking back, I realize how strong my family is — how strong I AM. Thank you.