Alumna Talita Guerrero ’15 Returns to University to Share Success at Annual Convocation

Vanessa Chatterley | Sun Oct 6, 2019

Talita Guerrero ’15 looked out on the crowd of students at convocation and explained that she was sitting in these same seats not too long ago, nervous to start her undergraduate career.

“I’m just like a lot of you. I think a lot of you students are here today because you have a dream,” she said.

At age 18, Talita Guerrero was a young mother and high school drop-out struggling to make ends meet. A little more than a decade later, she is now a co-founder of successful mortgage loan company Right Key Mortgage, holds a bachelor’s degree in business from UMass Boston, and is heavily revered by many of her peers in her industry.

Guerrero was the first alumnus chosen to speak at fall convocation as part of a new tradition of recognizing a member from the alumni community who has made a significant contribution to the improvement of the university in some way. Watch Talita Guerrero’s full speech.

In her introduction, Interim Chancellor Katherine Newman called Guerrero an inspiring Beacon whose story is “the essence of UMass Boston.”

Originally from Brazil, Guerrero’s dream started when she was just 12 years old and emigrated to the United States with her family, none of whom spoke English.

“Assimilating here was difficult. Without English, as you know, there’s not a lot of high-paying jobs. We were undocumented, so my parents worked two to three jobs just to make ends meet,” Guerrero said. “It was difficult at the time.”

With her parents busy working, Guerrero explained that she didn’t have much supervision, lost focus in school, and fell through the cracks. At age 15, she found out she was pregnant, and a few months later, on her sixteenth birthday, Guerrero dropped out of high school.

“At the time, it felt like the right thing to do,” said Guerrero. “Little did I know, I was clueless.”

A week later, she went into labor at just 26 weeks.

“It was very scary. At the time, we lived in Cape, so they transferred me to a hospital in Boston to give birth to my son. He was extremely sick, and I remember one day being in the Cape at home and getting a phone call that said, ‘You should come to Boston and see your baby,’” said Guerrero, whose son weighed only two pounds and needed a blood transfusion to bring up his white blood cell count. “He was struggling. We drove to Boston to maybe say our goodbyes… and deep inside, I knew that if that little boy made it, I was going to give him the absolute best life — despite my circumstances and challenges in being a teen mom.”

Guerrero’s son fought against all odds and made it, and she knew she needed to honor her promise. While her son was still in the hospital, Guerrero went back to school and earned her GED before enrolling in classes at a community college. When she turned 18, she was given the opportunity to work for a local mortgage company. This turned into a job offer in Boston, so she moved.

Talita Guerrero speaks at convocation

“That was the best move I have ever made, and that’s why I started at UMass Boston,” said Guerrero, who enrolled at the university after giving birth to her second child, a daughter. “I knew that I wanted to be an example to them. I knew that I wanted to be an example of hard work and perseverance. So, I started at UMass.”

But Guerrero’s journey to graduation was not an easy one. In addition to juggling a full roster of classes, she was also working full time and taking care of her children. Between late nights of studying and long days of work and school, she was also struggling to cover tuition and began looking at different scholarships for support.

“For a student who dropped out of high school and is not an athlete or academically gifted, it was very difficult for me to pay for my education, but I applied for one scholarship that was available to me,” said Guerrero, who applied to the Charles Hoff Leadership Scholarship. “All I really had was a dream and a decent essay.”

But that was all it took for university benefactor Charles Hoff, who interviews all of his scholarship candidates, to see something promising in Guerrero.

“He chose me, and he invested in me for the rest of my academic career. And for that, I will be forever thankful,” she said. “It truly wasn’t just the financial burden he lifted off of me. It was the fact that he believed in me.”

This was the push that Guerrero needed to finish her undergrad degree at UMass Boston, earning her bachelor’s in business with a concentration in management. Shortly after graduating, she co-founded Right Key Mortgage, a lender that finances residential and commercial loans throughout the country.

“All of the tools that I learned at UMass helps me with the challenges that I face every day in business. The most important part that I took from UMass is believing that I can do it. The faculty here make you believe that you can do it. The act of discipline, perseverance… all of those tools, I took it from here and put it out in the world,” said Guerrero, whose company does business in six states. “I never, ever thought I could live this life. It’s beyond my wildest dreams.”

In her quest to give back to the university, Guerrero recently established the Talita Guerrero You CAN Scholarship, a $25,000 endowment that is intended for students who face similar adversities that Guerrero encountered as an undergraduate. In addition to this endowment, Guerrero had some words of wisdom for the students in the audience.

“Get out there and embrace the culture in this wonderful school,” she said. “Absorb all of the information that you’re getting here. Because, honestly, this is just the beginning of all of your journey to living out your dreams.”

Talita Guerrero '15, Mayor Walsh, and Chancellor Newman

About UMass Boston
The University of Massachusetts Boston is deeply rooted in the city’s history, yet poised to address the challenges of the future. Recognized for innovative research, metropolitan Boston’s public university offers its diverse student population both an intimate learning environment and the rich experience of a great American city. UMass Boston’s 10 colleges and graduate schools serve 16,000 students while engaging local and global constituents through academic programs, research centers, and public service. To learn more, visit www.umb.edu.