Intern Eduardo Ramos proving that engaging the community is possible
Here’s the name of a young leader to remember for the future: Eduardo Ramos.
At the tender age of 19, this Washington State University student proved to be an invaluable asset to the city and the community doing community outreach as an intern for Wenatchee Mayor Frank Kuntz. Kuntz is effusive in his praise for the work that Ramos has done helping the city more effectively engage members of the community and told me that Wenatchee might ultimately be too small a stage for someone with Ramos’ talents.
Ramos has a compelling background. His father came to this country from Oaxaca, Mexico to work in the orchards and fields. The amnesty of 1986 provided an opportunity for his family to reunite and a path to citizenship. Ramos recalls his family living in farm worker housing in Wenatchee, Leavenworth and Cashmere and also living for a time in a recreational vehicle when they couldn’t afford housing.
By 1998, his parents put together enough money for a down payment on a house in South Wenatchee. They didn’t have much money and times were challenging. People told his parents that their son was destined to become a gang member, Ramos told me. Unfortunately, that stereotype still exists in our valley.
Ramos, thanks to the humble beginnings and family support, made the most of his opportunities and in fact had the courage to create some of his own lucky breaks.
He was determined to learn how to adapt to the Anglo culture and so he put himself in some uncomfortable positions of self promotion. He was, he believes, the first freshman to be allowed to join the staff of the Apple Leaf, Wenatchee High School’s award-winning newspaper. He worked his way up to become editor of the paper his senior year. He also served in student government.
His ability to navigate both the Latino and Anglo cultures has been invaluable for the city of Wenatchee. He helped translate content on the web site into intelligible Spanish and as a result posts started showing up in Spanish. He and another intern went door-to-door in neighborhoods that the city wants to annex to encourage citizens to show up and discuss the issues. Kuntz told me that the face-to-face outreach was instrumental in getting lots of people out to city meetings. Had the city just sent out postcards as the only invitation, few likely would have gotten involved.
Ramos is a fervent believer in finding ways to creatively engage with the community, particularly groups that are intimidated by the process or are unfamiliar with how the city operates. Finding ways to meet those individuals in ways that are welcoming is crucial, he told me. Ramos has a passion for translating information in ways that ordinary people can understand, whether people are Spanish speakers or not.
Government agencies, he believes, can benefit by creatively reaching out to various groups in public in ways that are culturally appropriate.
Kuntz calls Ramos an “incredible asset” to the city and the experience with all four city interns this year has proven the need for the city to consider funding a public information or civic engagement position in the 2017 budget.
Here’s another example of Ramos’s talents. At WSU, where he is studying journalism and political science, Ramos and a friend started a political radio show called The American Projects that creates a place for civil dialogue of political issues. This past spring, the discussions were mostly about national political issues, but that is being expanded to more statewide issues and races.
Ramos said what he likes best is the opportunity to be the neutral facilitator and explore difficult issues with conservatives and liberals.
The purpose is to create a place for thoughtful dialogue rather than the screaming, shouting and blaming that characterizes the national political dialogue all too often.
Eduardo Ramos is definitely a person to watch. He has three potential directions for his career — continuing in broadcast journalism, running political campaigns as a strategist, and, most recently, he’s been encouraged to think about someday running for office. With individuals like Ramos bringing their prodigious talents to our communities, the future is indeed bright.
The Art of Community Project is dedicated to creative community building in North Central Washington. To see an expanded story about Ramos and my video interview with him, access artofcommunityncw.com