John Guerrero gifts car to deserving former student

Published 12:16 am Saturday, February 22, 2020

PORT NECHES — Stephen Nguyen received one of the biggest surprises of his life Wednesday afternoon when Port Neches-Groves High School automotive teacher John Guerrero gifted him a car.

Guerrero, who is in his second year teaching at the high school, said it all started when his brother-in-law bought his wife a new car late last year.

“My brother-in-law told me about this car he was thinking about selling. I said, ‘Don’t sell it. Give it to me.’ He asked, ‘Why would I give it to you?’ I said, ‘So I can give it a way to a student in need.’”

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After Christmas, his brother-in-law showed up to the auto shop with the keys, the car and the title in hand. Guerrero knew immediately who he wanted to give it to.

“The first person who popped into my mind was Stephen,” he said. “He was a student from last year, who graduated already but was a very good kid.”

The Port Arthur native described Nguyen as quiet and reserved, but hardworking, compassionate and selfless.

“I only had three kids my first year in Auto Body II,” he said. “With only three kids, you get to know them fairly well. We started a conversation one day on what kind of car each kid really wanted.

“[Stephen] told me that he really wanted to get a job and buy his mother a car, specifically a Tahoe. It blew me away. He knew the color, the year and the model he wanted. It just surprised me.”

After buying the parts and putting in several hours to fix up the 2001 Honda Civic, Guerrero invited Stephen and his mother to take a look around the renovated auto shop on campus. Little did the former student know that it was more than a cursory visit.

“[Stephen] and his mother came by and I asked him how he liked the car that was sitting in the shop,” Guerrero said. “I asked if he’d want to drive it around, he looks at me and was like ‘Yeah, it’s nice.’

“I said ‘You want it?’ He told me he didn’t have any money. I asked him again if he wanted it and he said yes, so I said ‘It’s yours.’”

When asked why, Guerrero simply said, “You deserve it.”

“He is a good kid and out of all my students he was the only one that never thought about himself. He truly deserved it and it was never a question of being re-paid for anything.”

Guerrero said he is a firm believer in paying it forward.

“When I was young, I was fortunate that people took a chance on me,” he said. “So when I took this job, I knew I wanted to be that for someone else. So if I can do it, if it’s within my powers, I’m going to do it.”