While at Freedom High, Jimmy Ramirez was A: valedictorian; B: class president; C: homeless; D: all of the above.
The answer is D; as in determined, dedicated and diligent.
During his senior year at the Oakley school, Ramirez found himself without a place to live.
Ramirez was "officially" homeless for three months, with the prospect of being valedictorian looming. "It was very difficult to maintain relationships and class attendance because of everything happening in my life."
He said it was a "culmination of financial and emotional problems within my family.
"My parents divorced, my mother lost her job and our home was foreclosed. These factors ... left my sister and me homeless."
Before finding support with teacher Fidel Garcia and his family, Ramirez would "couch surf frequently among friends and family."
At first he felt awkward and burdensome, but Ramirez said he "quickly realized (living there) was truly a blessing. (Garcia) became a father figure, and provided me with security."
The student, who went on to graduate in 2011, was able to get through that tough time by focusing on being a role model for his younger sister (Vanessa, now 16 years old and at Freedom). And, "because of the incredible social safety net my friends and school created for me. I owe my friends the world."
Garcia, who's also Freedom's wrestling coach, said it was a "no-brainer" to ask Ramirez to move in when "I knew he needed a
He said the two are very close. "My son, Roman, and he are best friends. He's absolutely a member of the family."
Garcia said Ramirez, now a Georgetown University student, is "a very loving and caring individual. He is always looking to help out and make an impact in people's lives. He is very genuine in his desire to help, even when he needed help and support the most."
The success Ramirez gained at Freedom didn't surprise Garcia. "(He) has an unbelievable drive to succeed. He worked hard even through all the adversity he faced. I think that it is a quality that Jimmy will always possess."
With his current internship, it's clear Ramirez wants to pay it forward.
He's working with the California Homeless Youth Project, a research-and-policy initiative informing policymakers on "the issues concerning homeless youth in hopes of one day bringing an end to the current problem."
"I absolutely love it because it forges two things I love -- policy and making a difference."
This fall, he'll hit the Georgetown campus as a sophomore. "My experience has been incredible to say the least," he said. "I have met the most remarkable people and making friends whom I will cherish for life."
During his time in D.C., he became an associate member of the University's Lecture Fund, giving him the opportunity to meet Jesse Jackson, Sandra Fluke, Cornel Wes and Bill Clinton. "Georgetown has become home."
Majoring in government, and justice and peace, he plans to "go onto to do public service."
If there's a message to share, Ramirez said he'd tell young people "to invest themselves in something that is healthy and productive. Something that makes you happy will keep you on a path for success."
Though all this, he's found that a "struggle will make you a stronger person. Oftentimes, your struggle becomes a blessing in disguise."
Garcia said: "I look forward to him leaving a positive mark on the world, something that all of us in our community will be proud of."
For more info about California Homeless Youth Project, visit http://cahomelessyouth.library.ca.gov/
Contact Trine Gallegos at email@example.com.