Rising stars seem to have one thing in common: MOTIVATION. The question is, what MOTIVATES a person to rise above their surroundings and reach for the stars?

I wondered about this when I met Ricardo Guerra, a charming young man from a disadvantaged background. We agreed I would post a blog about his life and what motivated him to the great success he had achieved. The answer to this question came as a surprise.

I had asked Ricardo to send me a headshot of himself for the bio, which he hadn’t done but I figured it was because he was very busy.

Finally we are all together

He had sent me pictures of his family, including his siblings; his parents; his nieces and nephews and his team. But it took awhile before I finally got the headshot! Intuitively, I understood why Ricardo hadn’t sent me a picture of himself. He was a collectivist.

In his seminal book, Figuring foreigners out, a practical guide, Craig Storti (1999) explains there are basically two kinds of cultures, Collectivism and Individualism

For a Collectivist, ‘the smallest unit of survival is the family’; for an individualist ‘the smallest unit of survival is the individual’.

Ricardo is definitely a collectivist and the underlying reason he had not sent a headshot was that for him pictures of his family were like sending  pictures of himself. One thing he said during his interview was:

My biggest goal in life was to unite my family.

But I detected a certain nostalgia in his voice behind his desire to unite his family. I wondered what had been missing in his childhood?

A thoughtful 5 year old

His early childhood in San Julian Jalisco, Mexico was not easy. His parents had four girls and three boys to raise. Counting his mother, that meant eight mouths for his father to feed.

So his father left his native Mexico and went to work the fields in Fresno. He could only come to be with his family once a year. After staying awhile the family would inevitably lose the warmth of the father, when he had to go back to work. 

His father would send money whenever he could, but that was sporadic and meant his mother often became the sole provider. She would cook, clean and iron for rich people but with so many children it was hard to cover basic needs.

Ricardo’s mother did meet their most important needs, however. With her unconditional love, generosity and hard work, she set an example that helped Ricardo be what he is today: a human being who truly cares for the welfare of those around him.

He credits his mother for most of his accomplishments.   

Still, life was challenging for young Ricardo. At the early age of nine, he had to work in the fields, make bricks and assist in building houses, to help out. He recalls that there were never any birthday parties or cakes and his sisters never had a ‘quinceañera‘ (important 15th birthday party). In fact many times the family only got one meal a day. 

Every cloud has a silver lining, however. The struggle to help his family and study at the same time gave him a solid work ethic and a keen desire for a better education to fulfill his dreams.  

In retrospect, the struggles he went through were a huge blessing. 

The family is the heart of collectivism, but later the circle widens to include friends, the community, the team and eventually strangers in need of help. Ricardo adds that he could not have accomplished what he did alone. His deep faith in God opened the way for him, at the age of 13, to go to the US to join his father where he knew his opportunities to study would be better than in  Mexico.

In the US he grew up in the East Bay area where he attended San Lorenzo High School. After finishing, he entered CCSF Community College of San Francisco and later transferred to CSUEB, California State University East Bay, where he majored in psychology.

Sadly it was during his time in US that his father suffered two strokes. His last wish was to die in his homeland, Mexico, so Ricardo and his mother flew him back home to care for and nurture his father up to the day he passed on.


I have my BA in psychology and I have been working for Alameda County for over five years. I am a ‘CHOW II Community Health Outreach’ Worker at REACH  Ashland Youth Center where I live my dream every day by helping youth in many different ways”.

Some youth members of the center that Ricardo teaches  soccer to

Ricardo is delighted that the Center provides free services such as recreation activities, education support, arts and creativity, career and employment help, as well as health and wellness. This includes counseling services, a clinic and dental care. Working at the center has been one of the highlights of Ricardo’s life, not only for the job but for the solidarity with his co-workers: 

With Anthony “Sam” McNeal Ricardo welcomes new members to the center

Anthony “Sam” McNeal, one of Ricardo’s co-workers turns every assignment into an enthusiastic project to help the youth of the community. He also instills in Ricardo the importance that love and genuine caring plays in molding lives. 

Their collaborative work draws young people in, who might otherwise end up on the street, without ever having the opportunity to advance their skills, talents and education.

Ricardo enthusiastically adds:   

Can you imagine all of these services in one beautiful building, and everything for FREE? I love what I do!!!” Ri

Helping the Community and playing soccer are his biggest Passions!


Soccer has always been a huge part of Ricardo’s life and he has taken positions of leadership by being the captain of the team for San Lorenzo High, City College of San Francisco, Cal State East Bay and Aguiluchos USA. He loves the leadership role on the field and off the field because he uses this natural gift as a means of motivating those around him. 

Ricardo won the National Premier Soccer League Best XI player for CD Aguiluchos of Oakland in 2017. It was a very important win for them in the West Conference Championship titles. The whole team celebrates this monumental win!  



Ricardo with Victor Bermudez (Muma)

More recently, in 2019, Ricardo signed on with Oakland Roots, a soccer organization that fulfills his dreams and shares his vision. This is where he met and was privileged to play with Victor Bermudez (Muma) shown in the photo. Despite his fame, Victor is one of the most humble persons Ricard has ever know. This has been a great lesson for Ricardo who realized that some of the greatest people carry their greatness with humility.  On the team, Ricardo is a very versatile player with expertise as right back and winger. 



Ricardo plays many cards for his family, his team and his community!


A heart rooted in the warmth of a loving family has no bounds. Ricardo has found the opportunity to do volunteer work. This helps him give back to the community which is made up of others who grew up in difficult situations like he did. He considers that any aid that will help keep  families together and provide basic needs is important in the world.

He gives help when help is needed, regardless of who needs the help.



When a heart is founded in LOVE, the whole universe conspires to send it’s angels to help that person find his dreams

Some people call it ‘GRACE’ and in Ricardo’s case it is a combination of hard work and effort with the mentorship and vision of his  coaches. Ricardo is deeply grateful to the following people who played an important role in his soccer career and impacted his life on and off the field. In Ricardo’s words these are his helpers:   

Vicente Zamudio:
He was the first coach I had in my life. He started coaching me when I was 8 years old and supported me all the way until I was 13 years old. He sponsored me to go out of town and train with a professional Mexican academy (Atlas). 

Miguel Del Cid:
He supported me from 16 years old till 19 years old, exposing me to international soccer tournaments and creating one of the strongest youth teams in the area (Morelia).

Don Pedro A la Torre: I have been playing for him for about 10 years now. He has always given me the opportunity to play for him every time I was not playing for college or semi-pro. The name of his team – (Atlas)

Adam Lucarelli:
I feel that there was a before and an after in my soccer career.  When I played for Coach Adam, he taught me the importance of playing a system in soccer. His dedication and application of the most successful strategies I have witnessed in the field, have been life changing for me. (CCSF)

Andrew Cumbo: Coach Cumbo definitely made sure I got my education done at CSUEB. He supported me academically, on the field and was definitely a very caring human being.

Roger Amaya:
AKA “El Gran “Roger” also supported me and gave me the opportunity to lead his amazing project, “Aguiluchos USA”.  It is important to emphasize that the history we created for Aguiluchos USA could not have happened without the effort and the unity of all my teammates.  

Manish Singh:
This coach has always loved Soccer and given me the opportunity to play this wonderful game both in the US and in other countries. He also exposed me to the Fijian culture which expanded my world view.

Ricardo with Dr. Arnold Chavez

Ricardo states:
I had really strong connections with the Coaches above and I thank every single one of them for believing in me and helping me become the person I am today. 
I also want to give special thanks to my friend Dr. Arnold Chavez. He introduced me to Leona Wellington who wrote this article and he has been an inspiration to me because of the amazing work he has done during his life in helping disadvantaged people in different walks of life.  He has worked at helping fathers be better dads and also in helping prisoners rehabilitate and find meaningful lives for themselves. 




Storti, Craig (1999): Figuring foreigners out; a practical guide. Intercultural Press, A Nicholas Brealey Publidhing Company, Boston * London

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