ALF, A Professional and Personal Blessing

By Teresa Guerrero-Daley, Class XVI, State of California Superior Court Judge at Santa Clara County (Retired)

In 2003, I received the good news that I had been accepted to be part of the 2004, ALF Class XVI from my sponsor, Board of Supervisor Blanca Alvarado.  At the time I was considering running for judge and both undertakings were too wonderful to choose between them so I decided to do both.  On March 2, 2004, I became the first Latina to be elected to an open judicial seat in Santa Clara County.  My ALF colleagues supported my campaign and attended my investiture where I was sworn in by California Supreme Court Justice Carlos Moreno.

I applied ALF leadership principals throughout my 12 years of serving as a judge.  In particular, I created the first Middle School Education Court in the country for foster children with its goal of eliminating the obstacles that were preventing foster children from graduating from high school and enrolling in college.  In order to accomplish this, I convened leaders from different disciplines such as educators, social workers, child advocates, community leaders, and legal representatives. Organizing, convening, identifying problems, finding solutions and working as a team towards a common goal were skills that I had learned through the ALF leadership program.

Being part of Class XVI, “the baddest class” as we call ourselves, created a special bond and long-term friendship among us.  Our class still meets for reunions with members traveling from across the country and some from as far as India to attend our get-togethers.  This bond that has withstood the passage of over 13 years has literally become a life-saver.  In 2016, I was diagnosed with a rare form of bile duct cancer.  After undergoing surgery, chemo and radiation, I was told that my life expectancy was six months to a year.  I sought a second opinion.  Through the ALF network, I called on my ALF classmate, John Ford, a Vice Chancellor at UCSF, who introduced me to the leading oncologist on bile duct cancer in California.  Under the care of Dr. Kate Kelly, I am doing well, have lived beyond the one year prognosis, and the latest tests show no signs of active cancer cells.

Even though this illness resulted in my having to step down as a judge, I am now eager to engage in my next adventure.  Twenty years ago, in an interview for the San Jose Magazine, I was asked, “how would you best want to spend your time?”  I replied, “if I was independently wealthy and didn’t have to work, I would be a full time volunteer for a non-profit organization.” Well I am not wealthy, but my retirement and improving health will allow me to volunteer to my heart’s delight.  ALF reinforced in me the value and personal satisfaction of fostering a servant’s heart.