Orlando Ramos turned to higher education almost ten years after graduating high school, after multiple back injuries forced him to leave a successful career in the construction industry. Today, the 31-year-old is balancing life as a single father, college student, District Director, and City Councilman. Passionate about his profession in public service, Orlando plans to continue on his current career path and apply to law school in the future. His concentration: Public Policy. His advisor: Shekhar Regmi.
Every non-traditional age student has a story. What’s your story?
After graduating from High School I found success in the construction industry as a member of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters Local 108. I became one of the youngest Union Stewards in the history of my local union and even got elected to serve on the Executive Board. Unfortunately, I suffered a back injury on the job in May of 2009. This being the third time I hurt my back, I realized that a career change was inevitable, but because I elected to forgo college right after high school I didn’t really have a plan B. That’s when I decided to go back to school. I received an Associate’s Degree from Springfield Technical Community College and enrolled at the UMass-Amherst UWW for my bachelor’s.
Why did you choose UMass Amherst UWW to complete your degree?
I was ten years removed from high school. I tried going to school with traditional students but it was not the best experience. I was looking for a program that would A) fit my busy lifestyle and B) a program where I could use the work experience that I had already acquired. I found all of the above at the University Without Walls.
If you’ve written a portfolio, what’s been the best part of that experience for you?
Writing my portfolio was a great experience. It was nice to reflect on what I learned over the years, and learn about my own strengths and weaknesses. It was also nice to be able to put into words what my work experience means to me. Although on the surface it does not seem as if there is much of a connection between my prior and current career, they are connected in many ways, and I am glad to have been given the opportunity to write about it.
What have been the benefits of taking your courses online?
I love the flexibility of the program. Being a single dad raising a nine year old and working full-time does not leave much time to dedicate to my academics; UWW allowed me to complete my assignments at my pace and according to my schedule.
How do you balance work, school and other responsibilities?
This has not been an easy task; and it's something that I still struggle with. It definitely takes a lot of discipline. The important thing is to realize that they do not have to be separate entities and take advantage of every opportunity to combine my responsibilities whenever possible.
The great thing for me is that I have a wonderful little girl. My daughter and I do our homework together, and we campaign together and attend community events together etc… I couldn’t do any of it without her; she is the inspiration and motivation behind everything that I do.
What advice do you have for other students finishing their degrees?
Life is made up of a series of important decisions that will shape your eventual path; furthering your education is one that takes hard work and dedication, but it will help you get to where you want to be. I have yet to meet a person who says “I regret getting smarter.”
If you are employed, tell us a little about your current job.
I currently work full-time as District Director for the office of State Senator James T. Welch who represents the Hampden District. I am also a City Councilman in Springfield, Massachusetts. I love my job; it is very rewarding to be in a position to help the wonderful people of my community.
What are your plans for the future- professional and personally?
I am looking into applying for law school in 2014. As far as my professional goals, I enjoy what I am doing now; I think this is where I am meant to be. I truly believe that my talent and my passion reside in the same place—and that’s in public service.
Tell readers something cool about yourself that no one would guess about you?
Well, one cool thing about me that most people don’t know is that I own a show car. The car was given to me as a graduation present from my mother. I invested a lot of time and money into it over the years and turned it into an award winning car. From 2002-07 it won over 50 trophies and was featured in two car magazines.