As a volunteer at the campus’s applied biomechanics lab, Jesús Ramos inevitably found himself drawn to the wonder of the human body in motion.
During recent lab trials, runners wearing digital motion-capture sensors sprinted on treadmills as researchers recorded real-time data to gain insights into how prostheses might affect athletic performance. Ramos, who will graduate this spring with a bachelor’s degree in integrative physiology, scanned the videos to help make sense of the data.
Since he was a kid, he has dreamed of becoming a doctor, intrigued by the interplay of muscles, sinew, bone and flesh, and the complex structure of the human body.
“That’s what drew me to the major,” said Ramos, one of several Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) beneficiaries who are leaving CU Boulder with degrees in hand and hope in their hearts in spite of uncertainty over the fate of the federal program.
Like Ramos, some 700,000 young people or “Dreamers” who were brought to the United States as children are pursuing college and employment opportunities under DACA while federal lawmakers seek a permanent legislative solution to their complex immigration dilemma.
Born in Chihuahua, Mexico, Ramos arrived in Colorado with his parents and his sister at the age of 3. His father was later deported, but Ramos and the rest of his family endured, and his mother encouraged him and his sister to pursue high school diplomas.
“That’s what she understood as the American Dream,” he said. “She didn’t know what college was.”
A high school English teacher encouraged him to apply to every major Colorado college, and all but one accepted him.
“I credit a lot of my success to him,” said Ramos, who recalled how both wept after Ramos shared some of the challenges his family has faced in Colorado.
Ramos has excelled at CU Boulder in part thanks to DACA and Colorado’s Advancing Students for a Stronger Economy Tomorrow (ASSET), which allows eligible Colorado high school graduates to pay in-state tuition and qualify for Colorado Opportunity Fund (COF) funds to help offset college expenses.
Undocumented students are not eligible for federal financial aid and most rely on donations, scholarships and private funds to pay for the bulk of their college education.
Worries over DACA’s fate and his ability to pay for medical school have prompted Ramos to pursue another dream–that of helping other first-generation students. Next fall, he will head to the University of Maryland to pursue a master’s degree in student affairs.
“I want to make sure students have the support they need and are thriving,” Ramos said.
Adam Beaver, assistant director of international outreach and strategic initiatives for Residence Life, served as a campus mentor to Ramos, and observed his willingness to help others.
“He was engaging both students and staff alike, making everyone he met feel like they mattered,” Beaver said of Ramos’ collaborative work in residence life. “He seems drawn toward influential positions for the purpose of helping others. His personal goals are found in his desire to make connections and lift up others.”
During his time at CU Boulder, Ramos served as a campus resident adviser, a Residence Hall Association executive director, participated in CU Boulder’s First Generation Scholars, and was an undergraduate fellow at NASPA, the nation’s leading voice for student affairs professionals.
Ramos was also an undergraduate teaching assistant and cadaver specialist for the Human Anatomy Lab, and supported the campus’s Inspired Dreamers, a group of undocumented students who rally each other toward success.
“What has made me successful are the people who have mentored me and have been there for me,” Ramos said. “Without them, I would not be in the position I’m in now.”
In the end, he added, “I think I’ve gone above and beyond what my mom expected.”