With some conditioning in the military, Mario Ramirez transforms from college dropout to college graduate with honors.
At UC’s Commencement Ceremony on Dec. 11, Mario Ramirez transforms from college dropout to college graduate with honors and goals of pursuing law school. The 36-year-old Bridgetown native grew from struggling student, to soldier, to a young father, before returning to UC and now graduating with honors this December. He’s earning a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice with a focus in paralegal studies.
He dropped out of college, later became a new father and at that point says he realized it was time to jumpstart his career, so he joined the U.S. Army where he continues to serve in the reserves as a Sergeant First Class (SFC) with the 9th Legal Support Organization in Columbus, Ohio. SFC Ramirez is the Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge (NCOIC) of his team, and a member of the Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Corps, the oldest law firm in the nation. “It is an honor to be a member of the JAG and I love to lead and develop the young soldiers in my unit.”
Ramirez says joining the Army changed his life and put his priorities in order. “Once I got in the military, I excelled at everything I did,” he says. “It was a perfect fit for me. I found out where I belonged.”
Ramirez says he was serving with an elite group of lawyers, many of whom had graduated from West Point and Harvard. “One day, we were walking back from lunch and a captain asked me why I hadn’t graduated from college. I told him it was a long story. Then, he said, ‘How are you going to tell your kids that they have to go to college and graduate when you haven’t done so yourself?’
“It was like a seed had been planted,” Ramirez says. “I didn’t want to be a hypocrite and I thought about the places I had been and the things I had seen and it made me realize just how good we have it here in the United States.
“I had been in situations where I was wondering if I would ever see my family again. I made promises to myself that if I ever got home, then I was going to be the best that I can be. I got in touch with UC before I came home.”
“It had always bothered me that I didn’t graduate from college. It was the only thing I started that I hadn’t finished,” he says.
Because of his previous academic record, Ramirez appealed to go back to UC under the so-called “Academic Fresh Start” policy, which allows qualifying students who performed poorly in the past to get a fresh start at building a cumulative GPA. Ramirez says he has been on the honor roll ever since.
“Mario was a role model for the other students,” says Roger Wright, professor of criminal justice, UC College of Education, Criminal Justice and Human Services (CECH). “As his professor, it has been an honor and privilege to help one of our bravest warriors attain his goals.”
“Mario was an excellent student but equally important, he was a great role model for the other students,” says Janis Walter, professor of criminal justice. “They all respected and liked him. When he recently visited my classroom, he was immediately swamped by students who wanted to wish him well.”
His entire family – parents and three sisters – a 10-year-old son, Dominick, and his wife, Laura, are planning to watch him march across the stage at Commencement. Ramirez and his wife also have a four-year-old daughter, Bridget, and Ramirez is stepfather to Laura’s 12-year-old son, Anthony. “None of this could have taken place without the support of my loving wife and family. She is amazing,” he says.
Looking back on his long journey to this graduation, Ramirez says it was the discipline of the military and gaining maturity that brought him to this achievement. “I came back from Iraq thinking that I could conquer the world, but I was a little worried when I first came back to UC and looked ahead to assignments and writing all the papers. Then, I buckled down and made it happen. I just found my groove.”
“I’m now proud to be a UC alumnus. Go Bearcats!”
He plans to take the LSAT this winter to begin preparations to enter law school.