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First in family to earn high school diploma
David Ramirez the recipient of the 2011 Charlie Giles Memorial Scholarship works a computer at the Boys and Girls Club of Manteca. He plans on majoring in computer engineering when he enrolls at Fresno State in the fall. - photo by JASON CAMPBELL

When David Ramirez walks across the podium at Weston Ranch High School next week to get his high school diploma, he’ll have an extra wide smile on his face.

That’ll be because Ramirez will be the first person in his entire family to graduate from high school.

And with big plans on the horizon as he prepares himself mentally to enroll at Fresno State, the timing of him being named the 2011 Charlie Giles Memorial Scholarship through the Boys and Girls Club of Manteca/Lathrop couldn’t have been more on point.

“When I heard that I had won I just went crazy,” Ramirez said beaming. “I was screaming and yelling and then my phone cut out. I had no idea that was coming, and I was so happy to hear that.”

Ramirez is the sixth student to receive the $1,000 scholarship that was started to honor the memory of one of the Boys and Girls Club of Manteca’s founding board members and one of its biggest long-term supporters.

The lack of formal education in his family, however, only helped Ramirez as he worked his way through high school and began establishing a love for subjects and interests he would plan on pursuing beyond graduation.

His parents always pushed him to make sure that his homework and his assignments were completed on time, and reminded him of deadlines when they would approach – making sure their son got all of the opportunities that they never had. Ramirez’ father stopped attending school in the fourth grade – his mother ending her education after the second grade.

With the support of his family behind him and the teachers at Weston Ranch that pushed him, Ramirez felt compelled to do everything within his power to not only be the first person to graduate from high school, but be the first to go to college as well.

He had his choice between CSU East Bay, Sacramento State, Chico State and Fresno State. He fell in love with the Fresno campus when he visited, and the rest was history.

“I had the chance to visit there when classes were still going on and there were just so many people,” he said. “The buildings were so big and the campus was so big – I knew it was something that I wanted to be a part of.”

But he’s not letting those big ambitions get in the way of what matters right now. With finals coming up next week, he’s spending all of his free time studying and making sure he completes his high school years on a positive note.

Knowing that there are people out there that are willing to assist students who might not otherwise have the money to attend college, he said, will also make the end of his senior year that much more special.

“It feels great to know that there are other people out there that are willing to help,” Ramirez said. “There are nice people in this world that were willing to give people like me a chance to prove myself, and I’m very grateful for that.

“If there’s anything I can say to somebody who might be coming from a similar background its push yourself. Always put work first and then play. You can never go wrong when you do that.”