Hilda Ramirez strongly believes that “the answers to the problems that communities face lies within the people who are affected by the challenges.”
Ramirez is the assistant director of the Latino Education Institute of Worcester State University, a partnership of community leaders that provides outcome-based development programs in education, literacy, leadership, civic engagement, and health.
As an assistant director, she implements new programs and directs policy initiatives. She is a passionate, strategic leader who is committed to improving public education.
America’s Promise Alliance was able to hear from Ramirez about what excites her in the field, what motivates her, and what keeps her going. Take a look at her answers to our questions below:
Q: What work in your community are you most excited about right now?
I am excited about work that helps youth achieve success. I love to see youth as experts telling their own stories and contributing to improving their community. They have amazing ideas. Most importantly, I love hearing their stories and having them share their narratives; it helps guide the conversations on change in their communities and contributes to the models and practices that are being implemented to help break down the barriers.
Q: What keeps you doing this work?
I believe in the youth and families in our community. I see myself reflected in their needs and know what barriers they face. I came to this country when I was ten years old. I did not speak English and my parents did not know how to navigate education, but they cared deeply about our future and made huge sacrifices to give us a better life. I want the families we serve to reach their full potential.
Q: What successes in your community are you most proud of?
We are currently launching a new initiative called WIPLE, which is a parent engagement institute that was founded through the partnership among the African Community Education (ACE), the Latino Education Institute (LEI) at Worcester State University, the South Eastern Asian Coalition (SEAC), The Worcester Community Connections Coalition (WCCC), the Worcester Educational Collaborative (WEC), and the Worcester Public Schools (WPS).
WIPLE’s mission and objective is to provide parents with seminars to equip them with the knowledge, skills and tools to partner with schools and community to ensure that their children achieve their full potential. Students need support at home, school and the community. I know that the work we do makes a difference for the families we are able to reach.
Q: What is the greatest lesson you’ve learned?
I have learned that the most rewarding and effective work is when you empower a community to advocate for themselves. Not everyone has the tools and knowledge they need, but once you share that with parents and youth in your community, you know they will be successful in the future.
We need to spend more time listening to their needs rather than guessing and building programs around them. I have also learned that often times, people in positions of power have good intentions but are not connected to the real needs of the constituents they serve.
Q: What are the top three words that describe the biggest challenges to your work?
For more information about the Latino Education Institute and their WIPLE program, read Three Ways Communities Can Work Together to Support English Learners.