Ohlone’s new Multicultural Student Center Coordinator Elizabeth Ramirez reflects on the journey that led her back to Ohlone College after studying here as an undergrad. Ramirez says that as a first-generation, queer Chicana who came from a low-income background, she never could have imagined she would have gone through college and landed a great job shortly thereafter.
Growing up, I struggled with my identity and internalized many negative notions of what it meant to be a woman of color. Although I went to three different high schools, I ultimately graduated from Kennedy High School here in Fremont. Many of my friends who were just as smart and capable in school, unfortunately, dropped out. And, at graduation, I remember walking the stage alone with no friends to cheer me on. A teacher there who taught me Spanish once stopped me while I was walking the hallway and convinced me to apply to Ohlone College. She had seen potential in me when no one else had, I didn't even know what a major was or what the difference between colleges was. Little did I know that I would one day earn my master’s degree and later on go on and work at that same college.
I still have vivid memories of walking up the stairs of the Ohlone Fremont campus on my first visit, seeing how beautiful everything was, not knowing anyone, the constant doubt that I later on learned was the imposter syndrome that many first-generation students go through. All during my time at Ohlone, I continued to think of those friends who dropped out of school and wished that they could have gone on the same journey that I had gone through. Naturally, with my wandering and questioning mind, I became a sociology major. I thought of the elderly women who I worked with in the fruit factory in the valley who told me to pursue college, the teachers who did not believe in me, and the family members who thought I would not accomplish much. I became thankful and realized that I was incredibly lucky. It took a village to get me through my academic career, which led me to my passion for giving back to students, my community, and to push folks to be the best versions of themselves that they could ever be.
At Ohlone College I joined the Puente program, created the Puente Club, became the club president, participated in ICC, and became a student ambassador which ultimately led me to transfer to UC Davis. My passion to work with fellow students and that population grew, even more, when I moved. So much so that I ended up joining the Student Recruitment & Retention Center at UC Davis as the Student Transfer Outreach Coordinator where I was able to have the ability to work with various departments and to lead programming for the surrounding community colleges as a student. I was also able to lobby in the capital, became the MC for the Northern Puente Motivational Conference, participated in the MEChA club, as well as volunteered as a tutor at a neighboring middle school. Although there were plenty of times that I wanted to quit I continued to push on because of my family, my mentors, and the students I knew I would impact one day.
Shortly after graduating from UC Davis, I entered the master’s program at San Jose State University because I wanted to continue to challenge myself and I knew that I one day wanted to work at a community college. Through my time there I had various jobs which ranged from working in fast food to ultimately working in non-profits where I was able to serve families in the Tri-City area as well as in San Francisco. Yet, my heart was always in academia and I longed to work with students. I was later hired on to work for Los Medanos College as the High School & Community Outreach Program Coordinator and had the opportunity to be an adjunct faculty for counseling. I was able to teach college courses in high schools from Antioch as well as taught courses for first-year students. I was finally able to return to Ohlone College as of December 2020, to serve our community as the Multicultural Student Center Coordinator.
My students have and will always be my biggest accomplishments—their success will always be my success. I have been blessed enough to see students transfer and achieve their dreams. I hope to continue to serve the students of this community to feel empowered, accepted, and to provide them the tools to become the best versions that they can achieve. I also do believe in maintaining at least three goals by the age of 50, which include: getting a Ph.D., publishing a poetry book, and serving in local government or on a board for a non-profit one day.
When I am not working, I often dabble in the arts through writing poetry, painting, or enjoying theater. I also enjoy taking care of my nineteen plants which I plan to get more of. I have a passion for collecting postcards, earrings, and pins as well. My natural curious nature has led me to have a passion for history, museums, and learning interesting facts. I enjoy making people laugh, storytelling, and helping people see things from a different perspective. Being in nature is one of the ways that I am able to unwind and destress when I am feeling overwhelmed as well as through singing, dancing, or spending quality time with my loved ones. Before the pandemic, I often traveled out of state and went to music festivals, where a few times I even went alone—which, by the way, I highly recommend everyone to do at some point in their lives. Ultimately I believe that everyone has a purpose in life and the right to be happy. No one can ever be replicated and the most interesting part of growing up is that we are never the experts of everything, there is always room for growth and to better ourselves. I owe my success to those mentors that pushed me and saw a light in me when I doubted my own abilities. Through my work, I continue their legacy.