A second chance for Guatemalan refugee

Adalberto Ramos poses with English Language teacher Kari Loft at Friday’s graduation. Earlier this week, Ramos was recognized as the ELL Senior of the Year for his dedication to learning.

MARSHALL — When Adalberto Ramos Ramos moved to Marshall as a 18-year-old refugee from Guatemala in 2018, he was already a high school graduate.

Ramos said he knew he needed to earn his diploma here, too. But with some of the obstacles he faced over the past few years, it looked like he might not have a chance to achieve that goal.

“I was at the high school for three years and I had a few credits shy of the 30.5 that I needed to graduate. I turned 21 years old, and at that time was told that I had aged out,” Ramos said at Friday’s MATEC graduation.

“At that time I was working at Schwan’s, and when COVID hit we became short staffed, so I started working 12 to 14 hours every night. I thought I would get my GED, but it didn’t happen that way.”

But on Friday, Ramos received his graduation certificate, after getting a second chance to earn his last few high school credits this semester.

“It feels great, like don’t know the word for it,” Ramos said Friday.

Ramos first started attending Marshall High School when he was 18 years old, and was focused on learning English and getting his high school diploma.

“I told myself at the beginning, if I graduate or not, I’m going to do my best,” he said.

When he aged out of the public school system, the goal switched to earning the GED. But then his work schedule got in the way.

Ramos said things changed when he got a call from Kari Loft, an English language teacher at Marshall Public Schools.

“She told me that she went to the school board to get an exception for me to go back to school,” Ramos said.

He was given the option to finish his credits at either MHS or MATEC. He opted for MATEC because he could earn work study credits.

In Minnesota, it is possible for English language learner students who meet certain criteria to get approval to continue their education past the age of 21, said MATEC assistant principal Amanda Pederson.

Ramos said it wasn’t easy to finish his diploma as a full-time student, while still working nights at Schwan’s Company.

“I was sleeping an hour, an hour and a half. Sometimes I wasn’t sleeping at all,” he said.

But at the end of the semester, he had earned his high school diploma. In addition to graduating, Ramos also received the English Language Learner Senior of the Year award at Marshall High School earlier this week.

In a speech at Friday’s graduation ceremony at MATEC, Ramos said he wanted to thank the Marshall school board for giving the approval for him to complete his diploma, as well as his teachers and Loft.

“I know I can’t thank her enough for fighting for me. I think she saw something in me, that she just couldn’t let it end like that,” he said.

As he looks to the future, Ramos said he wants to keep working and learning.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

Today's breaking news and more in your inbox
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

Starting at $4.38/week.

Subscribe Today