MONROE — As a reserved boy in eighth grade, Erick Garcia-Ramirez struggled through a dark time after the death of a beloved aunt. But with the support of friends and family, he found a wide world beyond grief as he entered Monroe High School, one that inspired him to blaze a new path and encourage others to do the same.
Question: You spend two nights a week across the county at Everett Community College to study pre-calculus on top of your high school classes.
Answer: From there I’m thinking — if I pass the class and get a good grade — go into pre-calculus II and from there go into computer science. I want to enjoy my education and get better at it.
Q: You’ve moved up the street, as you say, from Frank Wagner Elementary to Park Place Middle and, finally, to Monroe High School. What changed when you entered high school?
A: From the past … I never gave myself the chance to get out more. I’d be mostly helping my mom clean house and with the cooking. (When I entered high school), that made me get the idea that everything is big. There’s a whole world out there. I made friends that made me go out more and have fun and who have shared interests.
Q: How does it feel now that you’re a senior?
A: Being a senior is a great achievement for myself because I’m the first in my family to graduate, and go beyond that. My parents help me out and support me.
Q: You are the first in your family to go to college?
A: I’m still getting (my mind around) that — deep breaths! — going to college, and maybe go beyond that. … I slowly got that detail, about how it all works. Now I can pass that on to my (brother and cousins) so that they can go further even than I have.
Q: You have a wide range of interests. You’re passionate about art and are pursuing an interest in computers, while also thinking about engineering.
A: I like to find new interests that burst my mind. (With art) I like thinking of big ideas — creating a project not just for myself but to show what I can do — that gratitude. … And at the same time the compliments. (Laughs)
Q: Do you have any hidden talents?
A: I don’t really like showing off too much. (When he does show someone a project he’s proud of, he also uses the opportunity to encourage them.) “You can do this, too, if you keep up practice and determination.”
Q: Do you have any advice for freshmen?
A: Don’t get lost! … It’s always great to make friends, even if you’re shy. From there you start to gain more knowledge how things go from high school to the near future, and also socialize around the high school as well.
Q: Your parents moved before you were born from Yogana, a small mountain town near Oaxaca, where you still occasionally visit family. You grew up with a mix of English and Spanish.
A: Now I’m actually getting the flow of a perfect English and a perfect Spanish. … (Being bilingual) gives me a different perspective of things.
Q: How does your mom feel about your accomplishments and goals?
A: Kind of the same thing (as me) — still taking it in. That’s what I like most — seeing my mom happy.
Q: Your dad?
A: He’s very supportive, and very excited. He doesn’t really show it. He says, “Keep going. Don’t stop. Keep trying. Don’t give up.” My parents are very motivating.
Q: Do you have anyone in your life you would single out as a mentor?
A: My aunt. She’s the one who really put me through and pushing myself. Because my parents were often working, my aunt would always check me, to see if I have homework. … The death of my aunt was really tragic for all of my family. Depression got into me, and I had that anxiety. Things were a little in the dark, I would say.
Q: What do you think she would say if she could see you now?
A: She would probably have the same reaction as my mom. … “She saw a future in you. Keep going.” That’s what I tell myself.
Melissa Slager: 425-339-3432; firstname.lastname@example.org.