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Making Change, One Child at a Time

Yvette Ramirez, a senior at Harvard, discusses disparities in the education system and her plans to becoming both a middle school English teacher and a community organizer in her neighborhood, the Mission District.

Ed. Note: Champions of Change is a weekly initiative to highlight Americans who are making an impact in their communities and helping our country rise to meet the many challenges of the 21st century.

Yvette Ramirez

I am the daughter of Mexican immigrants, and was raised in the Mission District, San Francisco’s Latino neighborhood. I grew up attending the local public schools that, sadly, lacked many resources. Thanks to the guidance of First Graduate, a non-profit that helps students become first-generation college graduates, I was able to attend an excellent private high school. I was stunned and pained by the tremendous disparities I observed between the education I received there, and the education my working class peers and I had obtained in the Mission. I arrived being academically far behind my classmates, so my eventual admission to Harvard College represented a very meaningful accomplishment to me. I decided to devote my career to helping other low-income students obtain the quality education they need and deserve. Public education can and should become a means to improving the life of every individual and I believe it truly is the key to moving our nation forward.

I aspire to become a leader in education, and I am committed to acquiring a comprehensive, grass-roots understanding of public education. I believe the best kind of learning happens through the provision of services to people in need, which allows both parties to benefit and grow together. I have therefore served as a summer school teacher in San Francisco, teaching Humanities to eighth and ninth grade students from low-income families, and given presentations on the college admissions process to middle schools and high schools across the city. A strong believer in the value of learning across cultures, I have also been a mentor in a program for Native American youth, and a literacy and career coach in South Africa. During my semester abroad in Namibia, I interned at a school for orphans and vulnerable children called Hope Initiatives, where I taught students between the ages of two and twenty about a wide range of subjects including History, Math, Science, English and Health Education. My students have taught me many invaluable lessons - in particular lessons about resourcefulness and resilience. I have also learned that teaching is one of the most essential and most demanding jobs anyone can do, and I look forward to a day when our society will treat the teaching profession with all the respect and admiration it merits.

I am honored to be named a Champion of Change, and to be recognized for my efforts to help students succeed, even if I am only able to help one classroom or one child at a time. I now plan on returning to the Mission District in order to use the skills I have gained through my volunteer work to make a quality public school education possible for the children in my community. As a future middle school teacher, I aim to empower my students to become champions of change as well.

Yvette Ramirez is a senior at Harvard studying Namibian and South African education and completing her coursework and practicum for the Undergraduate Teaching Education Program. She plans on becoming both a middle school English teacher and a community organizer in her neighborhood, the Mission District.