By Seth Daniel
When Rosemary Guzman left Costa Rica in the late 1960s to find a better future for her family – landing first in Chelsea – she had no idea what the future held, but she held on to the hope that something better was to find the Guzman’s in America.
One generation later, and after being joined by seven of her siblings and their spouses, Rosemary Guzman and the rest of the Guzman family of Chelsea number well over 100 and boast a wide variety of successes – becoming doctors, lawyers, real estate professionals, military careers, law enforcement and technology.
The one thing they all had in common was their parents stressed education and they all graduated from Chelsea High School.
Now, the family has banded together and wants to give back – establishing a scholarship for one Chelsea High student in the amount of $5,100 this year and in years to come. It’s a way of helping their home community, and also honoring their parents who made the very difficult jump to America.
“My dad was one of 12 siblings and his sister, Rosemary, was the first to leave from Costa Rica and come to Chelsea,” said Didier Guzman, a spokesman for the family. “She worked menial jobs in hotels and hospitals, changing the beds and doing all kinds of things. My mom and my aunt soon joined her in Chelsea, working the same kinds of jobs. My cousins and I were left in Costa Rica for my aunt and uncles and my dad to take care of us. They left everything they knew to move to Chelsea to make a better life. After a year went by, they came back and moved us all to Chelsea on Webster Avenue. We all lived out of one apartment there and they worked hard. They all eventually bought homes on Congress and Shurtleff Streets and owned buildings. For me and my cousins, it was a great way to grow up. We had a common backyard and we played with each other all the time.”
Along with that close-knit family of siblings and cousins, the Guzmans also held education with as much esteem as they did family values, said Didier. “None of them who came here graduated high school, but they thought it very important that we did,” he said. “They made such a great sacrifice. I can’t imagine leaving home at 21 and coming to a different country and not speaking the language or knowing anyone and going through Massachusetts in the late 1960s and early 1970s and everything that included – they didn’t care. To them, it was a better life for us than in Costa Rica. These were incredible women who came first. It is for them we do this.”
What the family decided to do this year was begin an annual scholarship to Chelsea High School.
Didier said that beginning in 1973 and continuing through 1992, at least one offspring from the Guzman family graduated or attended Chelsea High. The family had discussed the idea of honoring their family and the teachers and administrators that helped them in high school, but hadn’t set anything in stone until this year. Didier said he went to his Class of 1986 reunion last year, and the idea really came alive.
Soon, the rest of the family was all in and began contributing to the fundraising efforts.
“We’ve all been contributing and donating to the scholarship,” he said. “We found there were eight or nine scholarships and most were $1,500 or less. We wanted to make a significant impact for someone. When we talked it over, we all decided $5,000 should be the amount. When we gathered up the money this year, we ended up with $5,100, so that will be this year’s amount.”
The criteria is rather simple, he said, with family values and education being the main component established through a 1,000 word or less essay. The student must be graduating from Chelsea High and heading to college.
“We’re trying to be inclusive of everyone with no particular criteria except that family and education are very important to them,” he said. “We’re all going to be reviewing the applications. It will be a true family affair.”
Didier said many family members still live in Chelsea, including his cousin Sylvia Guzman – who is on the License Commission and is an attorney in Chelsea Court, and see the parallels with today’s Chelsea and the Chelsea that their parents immigrated to.
“Those of us who are still in Chelsea see the parallels every day, and hopefully we can help someone,” he said.
Scholarship applications are available in the Guidance Office of Chelsea High and are due on April 28 by 2:30 p.m. Questions should be submitted by email to [email protected]