Straddling Two Worlds
Esther Ramirios considers herself pretty lucky. While both parents—her mother was a home healthcare aid and her father was a steelworker and later labor union leader—encouraged her and her younger brother to go to college, money was always in short supply. “My parents immigrated to this country in the 60s and 70s,” says Esther. “They weren't professionals, but they worked very hard for what they had.”
Her father’s commitment to education can be summarized in the fact that, after 12 years in the workforce, he went back to school to earn an Associate of Arts degree from L.A. Technical College and then moved on to UCLA to receive his B.S. in Urban Planning. Esther says, “He used to always tease me, saying ‘Well, I’m sure you’ll have the grades to get in, but how are you going to pay for it?’ I knew it would be up to me to work hard and to find the funds.”
She did. In 1997 Esther graduated with a double major in Journalism and Philosophy from USC with the help of HSF and other scholarship programs.
When the $4.1 million American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 was passed, federal stimulus funding was made available for workforce development, a field in which Esther was now an accomplished practitioner. “It’s very rewarding,” she says. “I head a training program for healthcare service workers so they can move up the career ladder into better paying jobs.”
But she admits that being a first generation Latina brings cultural baggage, too. “The expectation is that a Latina goes to college to get married and then have children, not to have a career,” Esther says. “Children, especially if you’re the oldest, are also expected to take care of parents. So one is always contributing to their welfare. But they gave me so much, I’m happy and lucky to be able help.”