Hilda Ramirez is working to earn a seat on the Worcester School Committee.
With her ivy league education, running the Worcester Youth Center and her business background, this savvy Latina may be just what Worcester kids need!
By Mara Sindoni
While articles in other papers debate the lack of diversity in spite of district representation in the Worcester City Council and resistance by current Worcester School Committee members to adding district representation to the Worcester School Committee – all eyes should focus on the exceptional candidacy for School Committee of Hilda Ramirez.
Hilda is just what the kids of Worcester need! Ramirez’s background includes a B.A. in Business from Lesley College and a Master’s Degree in Education from Harvard University. After 16 years in the financial industry in Boston, Ramirez became a home-owner in Worcester and, in 2003, founded Ritmos Academy, a Dance, Art and Music School with fully-licensed Preschool and Afterschool programs. Hilda is presently the Executive Director of the Worcester Youth Center.
Ramirez’s recommendations on ways to improve Worcester’s schools are based on her personal experience and professional expertise. While our cities flounder and our international educational rankings plunge when compared to 70 other countries – the USA kids are 25th in math, 17th in science and 14th in reading – blame is unfairly set on the influx of foreigners.
How can it be, then, that a Spanish-speaking Hilda Ramirez could enter an English-only New York City 3rd grade and by 5th grade be advanced to 6th grade math and 8th grade English classes?
What was the magic here?
Hilda Ramirez knows from personal experience what Worcester’s two thirds Asian/Black/Hispanic student population needs to succeed academically.
Hilda’s first teacher in New York City was Latina. She went to Hilda’s home, shared experiences with Hilda’s mother, and made three specific recommendations on how to help Hilda succeed in America: (1) no Spanish TV, (2) complete homework daily and (3) go to the library.
Hilda’s Spanish-speaking mother did all three!
A disgruntled older brother chaperoned 10-year-old Hilda to the library every day. As a result, HILDA GOT HOOKED ON BOOKS – books in English! She and her brother won all the spelling bees. Hilda now emphasizes the need for teacher/parent communication and rapport. She proposes PARENT ACADEMIES. Studies have shown that consistent parental involvement is a major factor in determining a student’s academic success.
FULL-DAY PRESCHOOL WOULD BE IDEAL. Hilda had certain advantages that some Worcester school children lack. The daughter of garment-workers in NYC who wanted the best for their children, she had a happy, structured home-life. There was a rich culture left behind in the Dominican Republic and Hilda hopes newcomers to the US will retain the languages, arts and family and social values of their parents’ country of origin. But at the same time SCHOOL READINESS IS ESSENTIAL!
And that includes, not only intellectual and language readiness, but also patterns of behaviour, cooperativeness, structure, responsibility and expectations. Ramirez is hopeful that Worcester might zero-in on funding from President Obama’s ini-tiative for pre-schools.
In the meantime, she recommends that all early education teachers, including Worcester providers such as Edward Street Child Services, Guild of St. Agnes, Rainbow Child Development and the Head Start program be required to use the Core Curriculum used by Worcester Public Schools.
Her version of “no child left behind” is to move students forward when they are ready and be GROUPED BY ABILITY NOT GRADE, just as she was as a child in New York City. High school students should be pushed into Advanced Placement courses. As many as are ready should substitute college courses for high school classes, not just at Quinsigamond but also at Worcester State, Holy Cross and Clark.
In addition to college-readiness students need hands-on experience in the work-a-day world. We have many resources here. PUBLIC-PRIVATE PARTNERSHIPS with Worcester’s businesses, health industry, scientific, academic and cultural community should provide job experiences and internships. This too comes from Hilda Ramirez’s personal experience. At the age of 14, she was paid $8 an hour to work in the School Superin-tendent’s office doing chores such as filing, one evening a week during the school year and full-time summers.
Young Hilda knew how to work. Do Worcester’s school children know how to work?
On her first day as Executive Director of the Worcester Youth Center, Ramirez’s first action was to get the kids off the sofa and dump it! An old upright piano with keys that looked like someone had walked on or taken a hammer to them also got dumped. There is a new recording studio with a programmable keyboard. The place is spotless. The walls are decorated with recent student artwork. There is pride and a pleasant, cooperative atmosphere.
“When we were kids we were busy!” says Hilda. “We didn’t ‘hang.’ WE DIDN’T KNOW WHAT IT WAS TO HANG OUT!”
Hilda hired a tutor at the Youth Center to help teens get their diplomas. The tutor is a lot more than a tutor. She is a teen-talking teenager herself, not an authority figure but a role-model with good grades, She is herself being helped at a young age with a JOB, as Hilda was helped by working during high school in the school superintendent’s office. Hilda Ramirez wants Worcester high school students to graduate on time, fully prepared for college or a job.
IN THIS 21ST CENTURY GLOBAL ECONOMY A YOUNG AND DIVERSE POPULATION IS AN ASSET, provided that those that get an education work and stay here. Unlike Worcester, many American cities are on a downturn due to an increasingly elderly population and a declining tax base. Worcester, on the other hand, has fine colleges full of young people.
We have, in the WPS, a majority minority school system: Asian/Black (some African)/Hispanic school population, plus Albanians, Middle Easterners, Russians, with languages and a diaspora that amount to a significant POTENTIAL IN INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS! We could and should have a downtown more like Harvard Square, with great restaurants on Main Street and things to do, books, films, music, clothing, crafts, art and more performances in our theatres of music and dance from other countries. Our location in the center of New England, with CSX and an underused airport is propitious. If Worcester educates its diverse public school population as it can and should, and retains these and our college graduates, Worcester will prosper.
We need someone on the Worcester School Committee who knows how to make that happen.
Hilda Ramirez is that person!