E. Ricky Guerra

by Hanalei Steinhart
Photo of Ricky Guerra

MKI Affiliation:

Mentoring Program


Associate Director of Real Estate


Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation


Ricky Guerra came to community development as an organizer and has since worn many hats from Mel King Institute mentee to the Associate Director of Real Estate at JPNDC. These many roles emphasize the importance of collectivism and mentorship in the community development field. She grew up in an immigrant community where collectivism was central to her upbringing, and it remains a driving force today as she carves out roles for other people of color in real estate and small businesses. To Ricky, the “network of community is indispensable.”

Collectivism and community care are central to both the Mel King Institute’s and her values. Emphasizing the importance of these values, Ricky says that “community development is not monolithic, and that’s a beautiful thing because it inspires space for creativity and a nimble approach to the work as we continue to identify best practices.” Although she started as an organizer, Ricky has developed deep expertise in design, construction and how to engage residents and community members in those processes.

As someone who experienced many challenges that community residents face today such as housing insecurity and other barriers, she knows first-hand how important community networks are. While working with affordable housing residents as an organizer she “started to see how decisions we make during development impact the built environment and ultimately the lives of our residents and the community at-large.” Every step of the development process from subsidies, unit layouts, and who is awarded construction contracts have ripple effects in the communities. This realization sparked Ricky’s interest in real estate development.

Ricky joined the Mel King Institute mentoring program when she wanted to shift into the real estate field. She described her initial approach towards changing fields as “really broad, kind of like solving world hunger, you know it’s ultimately where you want to end up, but you’re not sure what the first step should be,” which is a feeling many MKI mentees can relate to. The mentoring program paired Ricky with a great thought partner who supported and coached her as she plotted her new path. She has joined the mentoring program again this year for the second time as a mentor, saying that “[she] didn’t get here alone, and that’s not an individual truth, it’s everyone's truth.” She wants to pay the support she received forward by supporting the next generation of leaders of color in real estate development. Ricky particularly dedicated herself to building and supporting representation within the development field that “reflects the diversity that we see in our community, both physically and from a lived-experience lens.” This drives her work like it drives the Mel King Institute’s work across the community development field.