Overcoming Adversity through Resilience
Eric Ramos likens resiliency to a ball. If you slam that ball down, it bounces back even higher. This is in stark contrast to an egg, which cracks when even the slightest bit of pressure is applied. Resiliency is the mindset that allows individuals to bounce back, rather than break, as they work through the emotions associated with trauma, pain and stress.
“The harder the force that pushes you down, the harder the force will be that pushes you back up,” says Ramos, a Walden University Master of Social Work (MSW) student and Gainesville, Florida resident. “You know you have the ability to rise back up. The way to be resilient is by never letting anything keep you down.”
Ramos started learning about his own resilience early. A set of traumatic childhood experiences informed his decision to want to help others become more resilient, which is why he wants to become a licensed clinical social worker.
While on a student visa from the Dominican Republic, Ramos’ biological mother gave birth to him prematurely after attempting to end her life. He entered the foster care system after she left him behind in the United States. When Ramos was three months old, he was adopted by a 68-year-old woman who inflicted verbal and psychological abuse. At the age of 15, Ramos came home from church and discovered his mother had passed away.
“My pastor didn’t want to see me go back in the system, so he put me in different homes, some of which didn’t work out,” says Ramos. “Once my mom died, I had nowhere to go. I didn’t have any biological family members, so I became a product of the state.”
During that time, school became difficult for Ramos. In addition to walking a long distance to school each day, he was bullied by his classmates. He became more focused on his two jobs than getting an education. After a warning from his guidance counselor, he graduated with a GPA just above the Florida state minimum.
When Ramos was 18, he applied for a tuition waiver from the Florida Department of Children and Families to get his bachelor’s degree. He was denied and felt lost, but his resilience kicked into gear. He kept applying until he was awarded the waiver at age 24, but he had to complete his degree by age 28.
“I graduated college with 3.5 GPA 10 years after I barely graduated high school,” says Ramos. “This was the right opportunity at the right time, as I was very focused on scholarship.”
In December 2017, Ramos’ resiliency was tested again when he was hit by a car while riding his motorcycle. Paramedics were able to resuscitate him, but he went into cardiac and respiratory arrest a second time on the way to the hospital. He remained in a coma for two months.
“After my accident and with all my life experiences, I really wanted to do something to help people,” says Ramos. “A friend recommended I check out Walden’s social work program, and I also decided to create a nonprofit to help my community.”
His nonprofit, RamosStrong Motivational Group, was named after his use of #RamosStrong to document his recovery journey on social media. He sees it as the mindset he’s had since he was a child.
“RamosStrong Motivational Group was founded on the principle of resilience,” says Ramos. “Its purpose is to help people be the most resilient version of themselves. My hope is to impact the greater community by helping people on an individual level.”
Through his organization, he provides annual shopping sprees for school supplies and clothing for children from single-parent households. Ramos and volunteers also provide free weekly tutoring for children in grades K-12 who need assistance in any subject.
“My requirement for tutoring is that the children must show progress each semester,” says Ramos “I understand how impactful that can be because it’s the motivation I could have used as a child. Because of my resilience, I went from a 2.1 high school GPA to being in graduate school. I’m proof that your childhood experiences don’t define you if you remain resilient.”
Ramos currently works as a case manager for the Florida Department of Children and Families and knows his social work degree from Walden will help him do more to empower the greater good. He’s already become more active in the macro side of social work, realizing the effect advocacy and policy changes can have on the lives of individuals.
“I love Walden because everything I learn teaches me how I can better operate my nonprofit to be an agent for change,” says Ramos. “I want to help people shift their mindsets and discover new ways to fix their problems so they can be successful in and outside of school.”