Aida Ramirez grew up believing the key to success and earning respect was going to college. But as an adult, she realized it wasn’t exactly about college, per se, but knowledge, that earned people the respect she sought.
“It was because they were able to speak deeply about many subjects. It was because they had their own, strong opinions. It was because they could question others,” Aida said.
“I really wanted to be that person for me and for my children, so I enrolled in college.”
Aida has been in school off and on since 2010, already having earned two associate’s degrees from Austin Community College. With her current program at Southern New Hampshire State University, she’s close to crossing the finish line of a bachelor’s degree.
This $2,500 scholarship from the Young Women’s Alliance will get her one step closer to graduating without owing student loans.
Becoming a Leader
Hard work has been a common and consistent theme throughout Aida’s life. As a mother of five children, she often worked more than one job to provide for them — even taking on a third job once to be able to buy her son a violin.
And, in the last several years, all her hard work has begun to pay off in new ways. When Aida was young, she was quiet, and never thought of herself as a person who could someday be a leader.
Now, she knows she is a leader — at home, at work, and in her community.
“Many people look to me for support, for motivation, for opinions, and for training,” she said. And she is committed to adding value to her community through things like translating important information to the Spanish-speaking community and teaching parenting classes.
Raising Women Up
She’s also working to help women around her gain the kind of confidence she has today. But that’s not always easy, she says, because “many of us are raised to believe our value is in whether or not we know how to cook, whom we marry and if we take good care of our husband, how our children live their lives and how successful they are.”
Aida wants women to know they are more than that, and to celebrate all the things they are able to do. In talking to women about sharing their knowledge and skills through volunteering, many of them tell her they have nothing to offer.
“Most women I work with have told me they do not know how to do anything. In shock, I respond by asking if they know how to garden, make tamales, sew, cook or anything of the sort. They always have certain things they know how to do very well.”
Even though Aida recognized that the key to earning respect and becoming a leader wasn’t contingent upon a college degree, it was the path she chose — and she’s been working hard to reach her goal for a long time.
“Once this journey is complete, my whole life will change,” she said.
And she’s ready for what’s next.
“Once I have this degree, I will have a louder voice to continue to lead my family, my team, my community, my parents, my women into a more powerful life.”
About the Young Women’s Alliance Foundation
The Young Women’s Alliance Foundation was established in 1997 to expand programmatic opportunities for YWA members and contribute to women and girls in the community through educational scholarships and an annual grant to YWA’s nonprofit partner organization, the Girls Empowerment Network. Support for the YWA Foundation comes from member fundraising efforts, proceeds from Austin Under Forty, the YWA Endowment Fund, and generous donations from individuals and corporations in Austin.