Former CIELO Student Gives Back
By Suzanne Ovel
Education brought Miguel Ramirez to America when he was just 14 years old, bringing him
across countries, languages and cultures from a small farming town in Mexico to Port Orchard, Wash.
“When I finished middle school down in Mexico, my parents couldn’t afford to send me to high school – couldn’t afford to pay for the high school expenses — and I started working with my dad. Then one of my uncles who was living up here in Washington said, ‘Hey, why don’t you come over here, and you can start working and you can go to school.’”
In Mexico, the high schools aren’t publicly funded, so students have to pay for classes and books. “We didn’t have a high school in my town, so just commuting to the high school was an expense of its own,” Miguel said.
Miguel left his family farm to go to high school in America, without knowing a word of English. He started taking English as a second language classes, and two years later when he moved to Lacey, he found out about CIELO and took three additional ESL classes there.
Three years after immigrating to the U.S., Miguel began giving back to CIELO – first as a volunteer, and later as a donor.
“It’s a program that gave me help when I needed it, and I see the good thing that it accomplishes in the community. I see how many people get assistance from there. I’m a believer that education is the key to success, so I will keep supporting CIELO because of that,” said Miguel.
As a volunteer, Miguel taught everything from math to science, and from English to reading and writing in Spanish. He eventually taught two classes a day, adjusting his work schedule to fit in his volunteering.
After a break volunteering as a teacher, Miguel came back to CIELO as a board member for nearly three years, helping to relocate the organization and hire an executive director.
A move and starting a new business with his uncle – Cusp Flooring Solutions – made it difficult to continue to volunteer, but Miguel still wanted to contribute to CIELO.
“After our second year, which was 2019, we decided it would be good to give back,” said Miguel.
Miguel and his uncle’s $5000 gift was the highest business donation ever given to CIELO, according to CIELO Board Member Mary Ferris.
“It’s amazing when you step back and realize he started as a student at CIELO years prior,” she said.
Miguel said that he believes education is very important for anybody’s success.
“Something that really holds us back as a community is that lack of communication; that lack of knowing what resources we are able to use, so CIELO is very important for that. I’ve seen so many people that go to CIELO take advantage of their classes and their services, and become better individuals, and then start giving back to the community as well. I think it’s very crucial to have organizations like CIELO,” said Miguel.
“One of the better feelings that I’ve ever gotten is to give back, and I feel very accomplished when I’m able to give back to CIELO.”