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School kept him on track as he dealt with being homeless

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School kept him on track as he dealt with being homeless

Andrew Ramos

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POSTED June 2, 2009 1:30 a.m.
The following is the speech given by Andrew Ramos at Calla High’s graduation last week. Caroline Thibodeau, Manteca Unified’s Director of Health Services and Homeless Foster Liaison, is trying to secure Ramos a job so he can support himself and continue going to college. She can be reached at 858-0782.

By ANDREW RAMOS
Calla High graduate
My name is Andrew Ramos.  I just turned 19 three weeks ago, and I have been going to Delta Junior College since January.  I’ve gotten pretty good grades, and some of you might not recognize me because I finished my credits in December, so this might be the first time you have seen me.
The reason I chose to do this speech is because I really loved my experience at Calla.
From the moment I arrived at Calla I knew this was different because the small campus really gave off this relaxing laid back vibe.  Calla is so great because of the office gals and especially the teachers.  I mean, seriously, have you ever been to a school before where the teachers enforce a “NO homework” allowed rule?? Remember lunch, the lines were so long, so you find a special friend who has an off campus pass to go across the street to Jimmy’s and you give them a few bucks and they come back with some chicken and potato wedges and  Arizona Ice Tea.  And if you were feeling really generous that day, you would even let your friend keep the change.............Remember the first time you came to Calla and you met that really super cool laid back chick; remember her name?? Yes, it was Mrs. Dixon.  Remember she taught Orientation classes and during lunch, she left the door open so we could go into her classroom and argue over what to watch on TV; cartoons or music videos.
Remember the first time you met Davi and somebody told you he was the guy who is going to teach you how to drive a car.  Remember that time in February when you skipped school to hang out with friends and the wonderful office ladies made sure to call your parents and tell them you had skipped school that day.  So when you got home your parents were there waiting for you wondering why you weren’t at school.  You tried to make up some phony reason why you weren’t there but they would always know better.  I feel detention coming on.
So, for that reason and many other reasons, I would like to take this opportunity tonight to thank all the parents in the audience for putting up with all the crazy stuff we did over the last 18 years of our lives.  I would also like to take this opportunity to personally thank the Calla staff; Mr. Munoz, Pat Seals, Mrs. Suzuki, Ray, Mrs. Breien, Mr. Millard, Mrs. Dixon, Mr. Davi, Mrs. Pyers, the gals in the office, Jacqueline, Linda, Kippy, Nancy and everyone else who helped me succeed;  Thank You.
As we all know by now, Calla is a school that offers a unique experience and take on the educational system.  The sad part about Calla High School is that all the students who attend this high school have had a series of unfortunate events occur during their lifetime that has caused them to be deficient in credits.  I am no different from all of you.  I may not have had the same experiences as you, but I can share with you a few of my experiences that brought me to Calla in the first place.  My family has always been poor, so that means I have always been poor.  Most of my life growing up I would get a haircut once a year if I was lucky.  I would get a pair of shoes only when I had holes in the front so big I could see my toes.  When I was 13, my dad passed away and we had lost our house and were living with 11 other people in a small 3-bedroom duplex with my cousins.  I slept on the floor in the living room.  
Ate spoiled food because it was better than starving
Things kept getting worse and by age 17, I was living in a homeless shelter on the Southside of Stockton under the Interstate 5 bridge.  Myself and 30 other people I had never met before slept on the floor in a small worn down cafeteria and ate less than prison-quality meals because all of it was free.  Sometimes we would get food poisoning because the food had spoiled several weeks before, but we still ate it because it was better than starving.  Everyday I woke up at 5:30 a.m. in the morning and walked through the dark Southside of Stockton by myself, surrounded by drug addicts, sex felons to downtown Stockton at 6:30 in the morning to catch the bus that would take me to Main and Moffat streets in Manteca and then I would walk all the way over to Calla.  That was my routine until I completed my credits last December.
Some of you may be wondering, “Why is he telling me this depressing story on graduation night?”  Well, the answer is simple.  I love this school; this school kept me motivated.  This school is the only thing in my life that did not abandon me.  The only thing I could depend on when I woke up on that cold hard floor surrounded by roaches and rats was that when I got to Manteca and I took that long walk down Yosemite to get to Calla, when I got there my school would be waiting for me.  My school was my house, my free meals and my teachers were my parents, and the students were my brothers and sisters.  But just like my family, we didn’t always get along, and most of that was my negative attitude, so for that I am sorry.  My school never gave up on me, so I never gave up on it.
So I decided if there was one thing that I could get out of this god-awful mess I called life, it would be my high school diploma from Calla High School.
So here I am now, standing in front of all of you, as a high school graduate, a full-time college student and with great possibilities ahead of me.  Fellow classmates, congratulations on tonight’s accomplishments, but please use tonight as a starting point to a successful life full of endless possibilities.
Congratulations, Class of 2009. Thank you very much.

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