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RHS grads rally around injured friend

Former Brazilian exchange student Sergio Guerra was back in Minnesota visiting friends when he fell from a ladder and broke his hip. A member of the Rosemount High School class of 1987, Guerra's old classmates have rallied to help him recover and get home.

Sergio Guerra has a love for English. During high school, that love led the Brazilian to Rosemount. Between 1986-87 Guerra spent a year at Rosemount High School learning the language and making friends.

Karen Yuen, a member of the RHS class of 1987, met Guerra in concert choir, which was headed by Steve Boelkhe.

“We became fast friends. 27 years later, we are still friends,” said Yuen.

After what he describes as a wonderful year, Guerra went back to Sao Paulo, where he became a teacher. He teaches English and Portuguese. Life moved forward and Guerra lost contact with most of his Rosemount High School friends.

Then, a few years ago, Guerra used Facebook to find many of his old chums. Wanting to reconnect more than just online, Guerra came back for a month-long trip to the United States this summer. He visited friends in Los Angeles and Ohio, then returned to Minnesota.

On his third day in Minnesota, while visiting the Boelkhe family, disaster struck. Guerra was helping search for a yearbook. While standing on a ladder, Guerra tried to move a box that turned out to be heavier than he anticipated. He fell and broke his left femur near his hip and the fibula of his right leg on June 19.

His injuries required surgery. Afterward, Guerra was in a lot of pain and unexplained fevers perplexed his medical team.

“It was really, really difficult,” said Guerra.

Guerra spent several weeks in the hospital. Even after his release, he couldn’t walk or care for himself. Insurance paid for his mom to come to the United States to care for him. However, he still needed a place to stay and help getting around.

That’s where his old classmates stepped in. Guerra said throughout his ordeal they have provided love, support, transportation, food and more.

“It’s a wonderful silver lining,” said Guerra. “I’ve felt loved, cared for and safe.”

Yuen said after all these years the friendship is still there and friends step up to help one another.

Currently, Guerra is staying with Stacy and Matt Ward in Chaska. He met the couple while on a weekend trip during his study abroad and they stayed in touch. The couple did not attend Rosemount High School.

Stacy, who works in the health care industry, has tried to advocate for Guerra.

“I absolutely can’t imagine going through this all in a foreign country” said Ward.

Before leaving Brazil, Guerra purchased travel insurance for his trip to the United States. The insurance has paid for $55,000 of his medical expenses. But Guerra’s bill is well over that.

“The bills just keep racking up,” said Ward.

Guerra said he has an outstanding balance of $40,000 at Hennepin County Medical Center and $10,000 at Regions Hospital.

Again, his classmates have stepped up to help. While she’s in LA, Yuen and some other classmates set up a website to collect money to help with Guerra’s medical bills. So far, his classmates have raised more than $3,840 to help with his expenses.

While there’s a long way to go, Yuen said any help they can provide will be useful. Guerra said he feels strongly about paying off the debt and will work when he can to pay it off.

In the meanwhile, Guerra said he’s grateful for the friendships he made so many years ago.

Anyone interested in helping can donate money at

Emily Zimmer
Emily Zimmer has worked as a staff writer for the Rosemount Town Pages since 2007. She has a degree in journalism from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Outside of work, Emily enjoys running, reading and gardening. You can follow Emily's gardening adventures at the Areavoices blog East of Weedin'
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