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“Why I Serve” Series: Deisy Ramirez, Florence Griffith Joyner Elementary School

Liz Warden, Corps Member

Deisy Ramirez was an honors student all throughout middle school. It only makes sense that she was placed in an honors-level English class her freshman year of high school.

But, there was a minor issue: She only spoke Spanish.

“My friend was trying to translate everything as fast as she [could] so I [could] keep up,” Deisy said, thinking back on her first day of class.

Deisy enrolled two weeks late at Fremont High in South Los Angeles; the only open classes were all honors.

After learning about Ramirez’s language barrier, her English teacher – Ms. Bessler – never doubted her ability to succeed.

“She said ‘don’t worry about it, you’re going to be okay,” Deisy recalls.20111105-151043.jpg

“They never made it seem like an impossible thing…[they would say] just do it!”

Ms. Bessler set time aside every morning at 6 a.m. to read Dr. Seuss books with her. Mistakes to Deisy and Ms. Bessler just meant they had to work harder and practice more by repeating words and reading aloud.

“Every month I would change books, but for the first month I had eight books I would read over and over again,” she said.

Because her teachers believed in her and surrounded her with positive reinforcement, she quickly learned English and stayed on the honors and Advanced Placement track for the rest of high school.

Five years later, she is now a proud graduate of the University of California at Berkeley.

To prepare for a career in teaching and give back to the community she grew up in, she currently serves with as an AmeriCorps member with City Year in a 3rd grade classroom at Florence Griffith Joyner Elementary School in Watts.

Some of her students are at a Kindergarden-first grade reading level. Others remind her of herself when she transitioned from Spanish to English.

She has been using the same techniques her high school English teachers use with her to help her students with their English and reading comprehension. She makes her students repeat and repeat until they enunciate or spell a word right.

Deisy hopes to be as inspirational and motivational as her teachers at Fremont High during her year of service with City Year and continue to be in the future as a teacher. If she could make it through, she knows her students can, too. Her teachers told her over and over again to, “just do it.”

“I tell my students now, ‘but why are you asking questions? Just do it. Once you finish you realize you can do it,” she said.

“It’s such an overused phrase, but it has so much meaning.”

This year, Deisy wants to expand on what she learned in college as an education minor and what she observed as a former teaching assistant at a Los Angeles elementary school.

After spending two months at Florence Griffith Joyner Elementary School, she knows her passion lies in the students of the community she grew up in. After facing the challenges she overcame, it’s time for her to reciprocate through City Year and give a similar classroom experience that her high school teachers gave her.

“I am living proof that if you have at least one person pushing you, you can accomplish anything,” she said

“It doesn’t matter if you have an army behind you pushing you or one person. It can get better…[the students] can do it.”

Tagged as: AmeriCorps, Florence Griffith Joyner Elementary School, Why I Serve

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One Comment Post a comment
  1. Tom Warden #

    Wow….you sure are meeting some exceptional people!

    November 5, 2011

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