Through children’s books, Elsie Guerrero advocates for children with disabilities

Shortly after graduating from Sacramento State, Elsie Guerrero ’11 (Government) was working in a special needs classroom at a south Sacramento elementary school when a young boy came up to her at recess. Referring to one of his special needs classmates with autism, the boy asked why she acted the way she did.

Guerrero soon left her job with the school to begin working in political advocacy, but that moment – and the other misunderstandings about disability and even abuse that she witnessed – stayed with her for several years.

“I missed my kids,” she says. “I decided to write a children’s book to show people how amazing these kids are.” How Eli and Emily Become Friends, a book about autism inspired by that recess encounter, was published in 2016. Since then, Guerrero has published seven additional books about children with autism, dyslexia, cerebral palsy and other disabilities, helping kids and parents better understand and accept their peers with disabilities.

“One book led to two books, to three books, and the next thing you know I have people sharing their stories with me,” Guerrero says. “My stories are inspired by real people.”

Today, she lives in Washington, D.C., working for a nonprofit political advocacy organization that focuses on immigration, voter rights, inequality and other issues. Her ultimate goal is to return home to Sacramento to open her own firm advocating for children with special needs and the Latinx community.

Guerrero, the first and still only member of her family to attend college, originally enrolled at a private Bay Area university but struggled financially. After two years, she came back to Sacramento and started at Sacramento State, where she began to thrive. She participated in Associated Students Inc. and the Sacramento Semester program, which provided her the chance to intern with a state assembly member as well as with a lobbying firm. And at a time when state budget cuts meant tuition was rising, she had plenty of opportunity to flex her advocacy muscles through protests and other forms of activism.

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Elsie Guerrero’s books help children with and without disabilities, and their parents, learn more about disability.

“It was good time to be a college student as a government major. You got to get your feet wet and get involved in politics, government and campaigning,” she says. “I got to see and experience the kind of work I wanted to do. Being able to be in (the Sacramento Semester) program opened doors for me.”

After Sacramento State, Guerrero in 2013 earned a master’s degree in public administration from Golden Gate University and, in 2015, another master’s in public affairs and practical politics from the University of San Francisco. During grad school, she interned with United Cerebral Palsy working on policies surrounding disability rights, before returning to working with children with special needs from 2016-2018. In June, she began working in Washington for Democracy Initiative, an issues-based campaign organization.

All the while, she continued publishing her children’s books and has been featured on Telemundo, NBC Latino, Hispanic Pro, and various blogs. Three more books, centered around Latinx issues, will be published later this year during Hispanic Heritage Month. The reaction to her books, she says, has been overwhelmingly positive.

“A lot of the response has been, ‘Oh, I didn’t know about that,’ ” Guerrero says. “People find it informative. Kids say, ‘Oh, I got to learn a little more about autism.’ ”

Learning about other individuals who are different from them is important to a child’s development, says Courtney Overton, a speech language pathologist who has read Eli and Emily to her students, but it’s also crucial that children with disabilities see themselves represented in books and other media they consume.

“I always give the example, not only for kids with disabilities but also for children of color, that when you see a photograph and you’re taking a group photo, immediately you look for yourself in that group photo because you’re always looking for someone that you can identify with,” Overton says. “When you translate that into education, it’s important for students with disabilities and students of color to see people in literature who look like them and to see educators who look like them, so that they can understand that they’re not alone.”

Overton met Guerrero when both volunteered at an event for high schoolers to help them learn more about applying for college, another of Guerrero’s passions. As if she isn’t kept busy enough through her advocacy work and writing, Guerrero also co-founded and runs Advancing Latinas into Leadership, or ALL, a mentoring program for D.C.-area Latina high school students. The organization provides help with college preparation, awards scholarships and connects students with Latina professionals for mentorship.

So far, she says, all of the young women involved in the program have gone on to college.

“I always said that the moment I think I’m becoming successful, I want to give back and I want to give back to those with similar backgrounds to myself and share the knowledge I wish I had when I was in high school.”

To learn more about Guerrero’s books and advocacy work, visit elsieguerrero.com.

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For Kings’ ‘Fresh,’ childhood passion becomes dream job

Scott Freshour ’06 (Communication Studies) was a freshman at Sacramento State and attending a baseball game when he and some friends decided to heckle the opposing players. That got them the attention of a member of Sac State’s athletics staff.

“I thought, ‘We’re getting kicked out,’” Freshour recalls. “But he says, ‘I like your passion. Do you guys want to intern in our sports marketing department?’ And I was like, are you kidding?”

He wasn’t kidding. Freshour got the internship, an experience that, in turn, helped land him his dream job: working for the Sacramento Kings, where he gets to put his infectious and seemingly inexhaustible passion and energy to good use.

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(Courtesy Sacramento Kings)

Officially, Freshour is the team’s producer of live entertainment, curating the plan for all in-game entertainment, from contests to baby races (seriously). But for Kings’ fans – who know him as “Fresh” or sometimes simply “Kings Guy” – he also is one the most visible elements of the in-arena experience, serving as emcee for skits and contests, as well as hype man responsible for pumping up the crowd.

“With my talented team, we create an entertainment experience and then I’m lucky enough to play a character in our presentation to fans,” he says, “It’s beyond fulfilling.”

It’s a role Freshour could have only dreamed of as a teenager in Redding during the early 2000s, when the Kings’ “Greatest Show on Court” was one of the hottest commodities in sports. He regularly made the three-hour drive to then-Arco Arena to catch games.

His love of and desire to be close to the Kings is one reason Freshour chose to attend Sacramento State, enrolling as an art major before switching to communication studies, where his professors encouraged him to challenge traditional methods.

“I’m incredibly proud to be a Hornet. My time on campus provided a foundation for navigating relationships with my team, building scripts and crafting an entertaining show, and ensuring that our fans are thrilled every time they visit Golden 1 Center,” says Freshour. “From the classroom to the quad, I found my calling: engaging with and entertaining people.”

Freshour’s success with the Kings isn’t surprising to Adam Primas, director of marketing/promotions and spirit groups with Sacramento State athletics. Primas supervised Freshour during his internship and saw first-hand the energy and creativity he brought not just to Hornet athletics events through his unique in-game entertainment or promotions, but to the office as a whole.

“Every time I hear his name I crack up,” Primas says. “He was just one of our best students. He could take the most monotonous job, hanging up a banner, and just have everyone laughing, hanging up more banners.”

At the end of Freshour’s sophomore year, the Kings called to ask if Sacramento State had any students who wanted an internship with the NBA team. Freshour jumped at the opportunity.

“Once I joined the athletic department, my college classrooms extended to the hardwood of Hornet Gym to the soccer fields and beyond,” he says. “Every season – volleyball, soccer, football, basketball, baseball – became its own semester and study of how teams operate and the intense work behind the scenes for each game-night experience.”

When Freshour graduated, the Kings offered a full-time position as an event coordinator. Over the years, his role has grown to stage and eventually talent manager. In 2008, he became the team’s emcee, and he was promoted to his current position as producer in 2016.

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Freshour has been invited to emcee the NBA’s All-Star Weekend for the past six years. (Courtesy Sacramento Kings)

“During the course of his time with the Kings, they have not been the best team record-wise, but our fans continue to come out and Fresh continues to entertain them and make the best experience possible,” says Scott Moak, the team’s vice president of game entertainment, production and content. Moak, the longtime PA announcer, first met Freshour in the early 2000s while working as the announcer at Sacramento State football, basketball and volleyball games. “He’s a crazy fan that’s turned into an emcee and is one of the best in the league.”

Moak says Freshour is the creative force behind the Kings’ in-game skits, contests and other entertainment features, many of which – including, yes, baby races – have been copied by other teams. And Moak isn’t kidding about that “best in the business” thing. Freshour has been invited to emcee the league’s All-Star Weekend for the past six years, a prestigious gig that lets him share his passion with NBA fans around the world – all while sporting Kings gear at center court and on national TV.

Off the court, Freshour’s passion these days is his 1-year-old son, who he is starting to bring to games and share the experience with as frequently as possible. He enjoys his sojourns to bicycle in the mountains, where he often finds inspiration for ideas to implement at games. And he still pinches himself that, 41 times a year, he gets to go to work on the Golden 1 Center floor, microphone in hand, in front of 17,000 fans, enjoying an adrenaline rush he calls “the best feeling in the world.”

“As a proud kings fan growing up, it is so mind-blowing to come to work every day in the NBA,” he says. “I know how much the city means to the Kings. I know how much the Kings mean to the city. I’m honored to be a part of it and look forward to the next phase of my career with the Kings.”

Alumna turns the page at Teen Vogue, shares vision with New York Times

EDITOR
Sac State alumna Elaine Welteroth talks about her first foray into journalism in a New York Times interview.

The teen magazine famous for dishing out fashion and makeover advice is enjoying a historic facelift of its own. Editor-in-Chief Elaine Welteroth ’07 (Communication Studies) is the force behind Teen Vogue’s transformation into a modern voice for an empathetic and engaged generation of readers.

Under Welteroth’s editorial direction, current issues of the magazine include fewer stories on fashion, beauty and style, and more on the progressive politics and social issues that impact and resonate with today’s diverse, digitally connected audience.

In a recent New York Times interview, Welteroth shares thoughts about her first foray into journalism and lauds a Sac State class that she says “changed her life.”

According to the article, the professor promised that any student who could get published in a national magazine would receive an automatic A. Welteroth pitched a story about plus-size footwear to Figure, a magazine for plus-size women, and her pitch was accepted.

Before her last semester of college, Welteroth interned at an international advertising agency, where she reportedly told a fellow intern that she’d rather be working at a magazine and showed him one of her stories from Figure. The other intern questioned whether her articles were real journalism, to which she replied, “I remember staying up for an hour and a half debating this man to the ground, telling him that beauty and fashion journalism is journalism.”

The editor-in-chief followed her heart and passion to become the second African American in Condé Nast’s 108-year publishing history to hold such a title and the youngest in Condé Nast history to become editor.

While content on the magazine’s robust website still includes articles on adolescent angst and celebrity crushes, the first navigation bar now reads “News and Politics,” a nod to Welteroth’s determination to move the needle on what’s considered news for teens.

“I felt like there was an opportunity to go a little deeper and to feature a different type of girl: someone who actually used their platform to be a role model and to be a thought leader. There was something shifting in the zeitgeist,” she told the New York Times. She added, “Teen Vogue has as much right to be at the table, talking about politics, as every young woman does in America right now.”

Welteroth was previously editor at Teen Vogue, which she joined in 2012 as beauty and health director. Before that, she was the senior beauty editor at Glamour, and worked as the beauty and style editor at Ebony magazine. – Anita Fitzhugh