Today we’d like to introduce you to Patricia Ramirez.
Thanks for sharing your story with us Patricia. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I am the daughter of Mexican and Salvadoran immigrants. I was raised by a single mother who early on instilled in me the importance of hard work. My family is made up of strong fierce women with strong personalities. That is where I get my strength. The men in my family were often in the background or not present at all. I grew up without a father and did not really have good examples of a two-parent household that abided by the cultural norms where the father is the provider and the mother is the caregiver. My mom was our everything and I suppose this was why I grew up questioning social and cultural norms, patriarchy, and religion. I did not need an example of this type of household because my mom, grandma, and tias showed me that we as women can be strong, fierce, independent, and can carry our family through anything. This often got me in trouble especially while dating because I was always strong, ambitious, dominant, and considered “too much”.
I have always been a rebel, and have thrived on taking up space in places, institutions, and fields that were not made for me. I attended UC Santa Barbara and earned my bachelor’s degrees in Feminist Studies and Chicano Studies. I worked at the Women’s Center and became involved in many efforts to promote gender equity. Throughout my time there I dedicated my efforts in educating the campus community about sexual and domestic violence prevention and gender-based violence. This became a personal commitment of mine because of the high prevalence of sexual and domestic violence in universities but because I knew friends who had been assaulted and I was also victimized throughout my college experience. I used these experiences as fuel and became passionate about disrupting systems that perpetuate violence and revictimize and retraumatize communities.
Shortly after graduating from college, a classmate of mine connected me with UCSB alumni, Wenonah Valentine (Coach V) who offered me an informational interview. She taught me early on the importance of showing up and leading every professional meeting with my strengths. Coach V has been an influential mentor and friend. Ever since I can remember, I have identified mentors that inspire me and have found ways to cultivate these mentoring relationships that allow me to support their vision while also provide me with the growth I am seeking.
After meeting with her, I entered the nonprofit arena and worked with an organization that worked with at-risk youth. I then transitioned into the immigration legal field working with immigrant victims of crimes. I found my calling and this informed my path to social work. I spent the last 8 years in the immigration legal field as a non-attorney providing support services to immigrant victims and advocating for the integration of social work in the legal field. The immigration system is retraumatizing and I believe that social workers can help mitigate the impact of that trauma as well as support advocates, attorneys, and other professionals working with immigrants and their families.
I earned my Masters in Social Work from the University of Southern CA and am currently earning my Doctorate in Social Work. I am where I am because of my passion of working with trauma-impacted communities, my commitment to disrupting the status quo, and the strong women who raised me, lifted me up, and believed and continue to believe in me, my strength, and my potential to change the world, even when I do not believe in myself.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
My journey has not been a smooth one but it is my journey and am committed to healing out loud (a theme coined by my sorority sis Diana) to inspire others who resonate with my story.
I have struggled ever since I can remember. Growing up without a father was a formative experience for me. I used school and achieving as a way to cope and prove that I am worthy. I earned a 4.2 GPA in my senior year of high school and was excited to leave my bubble to go to UCSB. My first year of college was crazy and I realized that I was not prepared for higher education. The Latino community at UCSB was small and I struggled to adjust. Classes were challenging and I doubted myself often and questioned whether I belonged.
I was sexually assaulted my first year and I used drinking and partying as a way to cope with it. I ended up being kicked out of school while I studied abroad and had to work really hard to get reinstated all the while making sure that my mom and family did not find out. I managed to be re-admitted without any disruption to my academic path. It was an experience that I was ashamed about because as the first-generation college student I felt the immense pressure to succeed especially because I was setting the example for my younger siblings. The remainder of my college experience I focused on working, extracurricular activities, and making sure I graduated.
I graduated from UCSB and immediately applied for a Master’s program. During my second semester, I realized that I was not passionate about the pathway I was making for myself and decided to drop out. This was the hardest decision I had to make because I felt like I had failed. It took me 4 years to finally open my mind to going back to grad school. At that point, I had already had 4-5 years in the immigration legal field and wanted more for myself. So I woke up one day and decided to apply to grad school in 4 hours. My mentors wrote letters of recommendation for me and I impulsively applied and let the universe take the lead on. I have always believed that if it is meant to be, it will happen. However, I also have believed that we have to make it happen. So I did my part and the rest was no longer under my control.
In 2018, I obtained my Masters of Social Work and pursued my Doctorate of Social Work. In 2019, I left the immigration legal field and became a co-Director of the 24-hour emergency Migrant Shelter in San Diego where I led the Family Services program. We served asylum-seeking families released from ICE and Border Patrol and helped them communicate with their friends or family members in the United States. My team provided travel arrangements to ensure that families arrived to their final destination. Due to the current political landscape, my program was impacted by an organization restructure and my position along with a portion of my team was eliminated. This was probably the most difficult for me and am still working through this struggle. The day I received the news I made the decision to see it as an opportunity to move back home to El Sereno and begin my project-based consulting work while focusing on my doctoral program.
What are you currently focused on?
Currently, aside from working on my doctorate program, I recently launched an online apparel storefront focused on empowerment-centric apparel. It is a mix of graphic tees with powerful words paying homage to my love for my culture, healing, growth, and social justice. I am also working on developing a project-based consulting business that equips social justice organizations with the capacity to support their staff by integrating intersectional, trauma, and resilient informed approaches to their work. Some organizations do not have the resources to bring on a full-time staff member to fulfill these roles so I find it extremely important for me to support the work of start-ups and grassroots organizations with capacity building, grant writing, and project and program development. I want to support organizations and institutions led by and/or serving people of color who are hoping to create important transformative change for communities of color along racial, gender, and health equity. I have a focused commitment on continuing to advance immigrant rights and I am in the beginning stages and am excited to dedicate my energy to bringing this dream to fruition. Stay tuned…
What were you like growing up?
This was a hard question to answer and had to ask my momma for some insight. I have memories of being generally respectful, rebellious, strong-willed, and ambitious. She shared that I was always interested in how I could help people and my community and said I talked about this often. I have always dreamed of transforming the world to be a better place. I loved music and found singing to be an outlet for me. I wanted to be the next Selena or Christina Aguilera. I feel like I was a big dreamer and still am.
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Evelyn Hernandez Aldape