Pablo Ramos, an architectural engineering senior, was named the 2010 Cal Poly Hearst Scholar on Tuesday.
The award, according to the California State University website for the Hearst award, “is given each year to those students who have demonstrated financial need, experienced personal hardships, and have attributes of merit, including superior academic performance, exemplary community service, and significant personal achievements.”
Ramos, who grew up in Santa Maria, was raised by a single mother and had little opportunity to think about attending college.
“When I was younger, I didn’t expect to attend college,” Ramos said. “It’s funny because when I was in second or third grade, I came to Cal Poly on a field trip …. Even though I was on campus, I couldn’t imagine myself there.”
After attending Allan Hancock Community College in Santa Maria and switching majors from business to kinesiology to architecture, Ramos decided he wanted to be “challenged more” and finally switched to his current major, architectural engineering.
“I applied to Cal Poly in the winter quarter, and I got denied,” Ramos said. “I didn’t want to stop going to school.”
This small setback enabled him to motivate and challenge himself, he said. After an internship with an architectural firm in Santa Maria, Ramos was able to transfer to Cal Poly and continue his education.
Last summer, Ramos attended the NEES Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) at the University of Nevada, Reno where he had “hands-on” experience building and testing bridges.
Kelly Lyttle, the UNR Center for Civil Engineering Earthquake Research program coordinator said Ramos had a good application.
“Pablo had an extremely well-written application, and he was one of the only students who mentioned his struggle to become an engineering student at Cal Poly,” Lyttle said.
Once Ramos attended the REU program, Lyttle said she was impressed with his work ethic and his ability to complete tasks on time and to the best of his abilities.
“As soon as I assigned Pablo to a task, he tackled it immediately,” Lyttle said. “In fact, he completed things so quickly that I would sometimes run out of work to assign him.”
Dr. Cole McDaniel, an associate professor for architectural engineering at Cal Poly, who teaches seismic design and analysis, also said he has been impressed with Ramos’ work ethic.
“He’s a little bit older than some of the other students, so I think he … appreciates (college) a little more and knows that he can learn quite a bit here, rather than just studying for the tests,” McDaniel said. “(His experiences at REU) will not only help for grad school, but will also improve his education this year.”
McDaniel also hopes the $3,000 Hearst Scholars Award Scholarship will help Ramos in his last year at Cal Poly.
“He did the best he could with the time he had,” McDaniel said. “(But) I could tell he wanted to do more.”
Soon to graduate and on track for graduate school, Ramos feels his situation is “surreal” and is motivated to better himself and others, as well as connecting with his father, who “wasn’t there for 18 years.”
“I feel like I’m getting somewhere in life, and that I need (that relationship),” Ramos said.
Ramos became a father himself in 2007, and although this meant he had to work to support his family and devote less time to his schooling, Ramos does not regret it at all. His daughter is the reason behind his success; it is because of her that his situation became more “serious,” and he wanted to do more to provide for her, he said.
“I grew up in a tough neighborhood. Most of my (childhood) friends are in the prison system,” Ramos said. “My daughter is the reason why I’m here today.”