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Ramon Garza was a smart kid, one of the “highly capable” students who loved learning, excelled at math and science, and even took the toughest calculus classes in high school. But even good kids can get sidetracked, and Ramon’s time off the rails nearly cost him a promising future.
Everything was fine in his middle-class Tacoma family—a mom who worked at Boeing for decades and a dad who owned his own network cabling business—until the divorce. Ramon was only nine, and even though his dad lived close by, “it changed my trajectory a bit.”
Ramon was angry. He’d act out. Still, he was in honors chemistry and English classes his junior year. At the end of that year, a friend died in a drunken driving accident the night of the school prom—one more thing to put Ramon’s head in a bad place. By the time he reached his senior year of high school, he was skipping class and running with the wrong crowd. He barely graduated.
“I don’t know why exactly, but I just didn’t care anymore,” recalls Ramon, who half-heartedly registered for Tacoma Community College but dropped out after one quarter.
For the next several years, he worked for a restaurant, a grocery store and for his dad’s company. He was satisfied to live an aimless life of hanging out, partying, living with his mom and earning modest wages.
In 2013, by then dating his future wife, Shanda, something clicked. He knew he was meant to do more.
“I made a promise to myself that if I went back to college, I wouldn’t play around, no skipping class. I couldn’t do it the same way and expect different results. I had to commit,” Ramon states.
He returned to Tacoma Community College with a goal of making straight As. And he did. Ramon earned an Associate of Science degree in 2016 with a 3.99 GPA. During his time at TCC, he discovered the joy of helping fellow students learn and became a part-time paid tutor.
A coveted transfer scholarship smoothed his way to UW Tacoma, where he set his sights on a degree in Biomedical Science with an ultimate goal of enrolling in the UW School of Pharmacy. Married in 2015 and a stepfather to Shanda’s two sons, his plans almost were derailed again when Shanda unexpectedly lost her job. But a surprise Fuchs Foundation scholarship came in the nick of time.
“This scholarship feels like love. Even though it’s money, it feels like love,” Ramon says. “People are donating their hard-earned money to people like me so we can accomplish our dreams. I can’t say enough how grateful I am.”
Ramon has friends whose lives never did get back on track. Some are addicted to drugs. That’s part of what drives his determination to work in medicine.
“It’s inspiring to me to learn how the human body works on a biochemical level,” he explains. “I’m fascinated with living things and how medicines can heal and hurt the body. Being a pharmacist seemed like a natural fit for everything I’d been through and what I’ve become passionate about.”
“What you’ve been through makes you into the person you are, especially if you can learn from your mistakes,” he concludes. “Don’t lose sight of your dreams.”
John Burkhardt, UW Tacoma Communications, 253-692-4536 or firstname.lastname@example.org