Rising senior Araceli Ramirez is a first generation American and soon to be first-generation college student, and Bevill State Community College's Upward Bound program is helping her reach new …
Rising senior Araceli Ramirez is a first generation American and soon to be first-generation college student, and Bevill State Community College's Upward Bound program is helping her reach new heights.
Upward Bound helps students from disadvantaged backgrounds with tutoring, academic instruction, counseling, and other services. Ramirez started participating in the program this year and has since enhanced her grades and had a number of unforgettable experiences, but the teenager was already on a path to greatness.
Ramirez has attended Carbon Hill schools since she was in kindergarten. While most children were playing with toys at that age, Ramirez was teaching herself to learn both the Spanish and English languages.
"I taught myself how to read and write in Spanish," she said. "I had to teach myself English. I did that through books and watching TV."
Being fluent in both languages was important since only Spanish was spoken at her home and English was spoken at school.
"I'm grateful that I had to do that, because now whenever I see someone struggling I can help because I know what that struggle is," she said. "Having to do that at such a young age, it has opened my mind to the different types of struggles that there is in the world."
As Ramirez has grown into a young woman, her determination has grown even stronger to succeed.
This year, Ramirez decided to take part in Upward Bound, and she was one of only two Bevill State Upward Bound students chosen to attend the National Student Leadership Congress (NSLC) last month in Washington, D.C.
The event was open to 179 TRIO students across the nation. Upward Bound is under the umbrella of TRIO, which consists of eight federally funded programs for students in need.
Ramirez impressed at the event and was chosen to be a spokesperson for a mock Congress group at the NSLC. She and other TRIO students also visited famous landmarks in D.C.
"I definitely got to see a lot of different things that I wouldn't have seen. It was definitely an experience that I will keep with me throughout my life," she said. "I got to see and meet so many different people from Guam, Alaska, Puerto Rico, and I got to see so much open-mindedness that you normally don't see. It was just such a great experience."
Through Upward Bound, Ramirez has been able to take other trips this summer and participate in mock college courses through Bevill State. During the next school year, she will have access to Upward Bound tutoring at her school, and upon graduation in 2020, she will have an opportunity to take two college courses at Bevill State free of charge.
"She's definitely going to be able to accomplish whatever she sets her mind to," Bevill State-Sumiton Upward Bound coordinator Gina Thomason said. "We will push her hard because we know what she's capable of."
Ramirez credits Upward Bound tutoring for helping her make an A in chemistry this past year, and she said the program has afforded her opportunities that she may not have had otherwise.
She spoke highly of her parents, saying that nothing would be possible without their sacrifices. Her parents immigrated to America as teenagers and have always worked tirelessly to provide for Ramirez and her two siblings.
"They've instilled in me that drive to go out and do stuff. They motivate me to be the best that I can be because they've had to work really hard," she said.
Ramirez says her father works in the coal mines and her mother is employed with Mar-Jac. Both work long hours, yet they make time to encourage Ramirez to do her best in school.
Seeing their struggle has also inspired Ramirez to possibly pursue a degree in immigration law, so she can help those who strive for the American dream.
"They work really hard just to give us a better life," Ramirez said of her parents. "They inspire me, just their hard work. That step ahead that they gave me, I can't let that go to waste. I have to show that their efforts aren't going to go in vain."
She added, "They've given me the opportunity that not a lot of people had. If I would've been born in Mexico then I wouldn't have had the same educational resources as I do here. They definitely gave me that step ahead."