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Local Star Science Teacher Enriqueta Ramirez Earns Pomona College Inspirational Young Alumni Award for 2005

Enriqueta Ramirez, Pomona College Class of 2000, once was a teen mom surviving on minimum-wage work and welfare. Today, she is a one-woman magnet school, drawing students into science work with a mix of high expectations and fun activities.

To show how serious she is about science, Ramirez wears her trademark white lab coat to class every day at John Marshall Middle School in a low-income area of Pomona. Ramirez’ commitment to quality teaching in a challenging environment made her a natural choice for Pomona College’s 2005 Inspirational Young Alumni Award.

Ramirez sets high expectations from Day One, with consequences for rule-breaking prominently posted in the classroom. She’s not shy about blowing her keychain whistle to get students’ attention. But once she has students’ respect, there’s plenty of fun. Some days she’s egging kids on to throw paper airplanes, with an academic purpose. Ramirez has them pose questions about an experiment on the folded-up paper, and the person who picks it up has to answer.

It’s just one of many creative methods she uses to spark students’ excitement about science at a middle school in a low-income neighborhood of Pomona. “They never do the same thing every day,” says Ramirez.

While she was attending community college years ago, an instructor encouraged Ramirez to enroll in a summer program at Pomona College, where she worked in a science lab with Professor Karen Parfitt. Ramirez wound up enrolling as a full-time student at Pomona, balancing demanding coursework with parenting. She graduated as biology major in 2000.

She credits Pomona College with instilling in her a commitment to excellence in the classroom. “I’m rigorous with the kids,” she says. “I have high expectations. That comes from Pomona.”

Today she maintains her classroom commitments despite a busy home life, raising four kids (ages 5 to 15) as a single mom.

Ramirez loves teaching science because it’s such a hands-on subject and she is constantly on her feet, moving from student to student to monitor their work. “She makes learning fun,” says student David Gonzalez.

The Inspirational Young Alumni Award was established to honor Pomona College graduates of the last decade for their dedication, perseverance and consistency in following their vision of the inscription on the College's historic Blaisdell Gates: "They only are loyal to this college who departing, bear their added riches in trust for mankind." Nominations can be made by faculty, staff, students or alumni of the College, and the winner is chosen by a committee of current students.

Previous winners include doctor/filmmaker Gretchen Berland, Class of 1986, who recently won a $500,000 MacArthur Foundation "genius grant." Pomona College is one of the nation’s premier liberal arts institutions, offering a comprehensive program in the arts, humanities, social sciences and natural sciences. Its hallmarks include small classes, close relationships between students and faculty, and a range of opportunities for student research.