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October 23, 2013

UC lecturer wants to improve educational opportunities

UC Merced lecturer Chris Ramirez, 39, said he can provide a bridge between the city and the university.

Merced City Council candidate Chris Ramirez said he wants to repay the people of Merced for the opportunities the city has given him. “I love Merced,” the 39-year-old said. “Merced has been good to me.”

UC Merced, where Ramirez is a lecturer in the Merritt Writing Program, employs many people in the city. Ramirez said the growth of the university is key to creating more jobs in town.

Developing a medical school at the university would be a good start, he said. He has the connections at the school to help it along, Ramirez said.

“That’s an important economic engine, potentially,” he said, adding that it could supply staff for Mercy Medical Center. “Down the road, it will offer us positive job growth potential.”

Ramirez said Merced can also help those not bound for a four-year school. He pointed to the Milan Institute of Cosmetology and Horizons Unlimited Health Care as examples of places that offer vocational learning in Merced.

Educating Mercedians on how to be ready for work will help them find jobs, and will pay off by generating tax revenue, he said.

“We need to look across the board broadly (at) all the different talents that we have in the community,” he said.

It is important to allow for innovation, Ramirez said. He pointed to the Bali Learning Center, a Merced organization started by UC Merced graduate Uday Bali.

“People are open to ideas in this community,” he said. “You just got to be a little innovative.”

Ramirez, originally from the Riverside area, earned a master of fine arts degree from UC Santa Cruz. He moved here in 2008 to work for UC Merced.

Ramirez said he grew up in a working-class home, where he saw drug abuse and domestic violence. He said neither of his parents were around much, so he was raised by his grandmother and great-grandmother. Those women helped him to be successful, he said, and instilled in him the desire to give others a hand.

“It’s important that you reciprocate that help, by helping other people,” he said. “Service has always been important to me.”

Ramirez served on a Building Healthy Communities board, on which he led a community program that awards $1,000 grants to qualified applicants. Ramirez said he helped spearhead Merced County Project 10%, a program in which UC Merced students speak to eighth-graders in all of Merced County’s middle schools about the importance of graduating from high school and making positive choices.

The project joined the university with Merced County District Attorney Larry Morse II and Merced County Superintendent of Schools Steve Gomes. The aim is to increase graduation rates by 10percent in the county’s high schools.

“It sounds easy, but it wasn’t,” he said, adding that he volunteered his time. “It’s that kind of initiative, it’s that kind of resiliency and tenacity that is pulling me to the direction of City Council.”

Ramirez said he has been glad to see the efforts the city put towards adding bike lanes, and he would like to continue that effort. The City Council approved more than 100 projects in September in the latest bicycle plan.

Ramirez, who is renting a car during his campaign for office, said he does not normally drive. He bikes, walks or rides the bus.

More bicyclists in town and fewer drivers could lead to better air and healthier residents, he said.

“Maybe there’s ways we can create incentives in getting people maybe to one day a week carpool to work, maybe offer bus passes at discounted rates,” Ramirez said.

His eagerness to meet with residents and business owners to hear their opinions is one of his strengths, he said.

“I want to see myself, when elected to City Council, as an ambassador who’s going to be out there communicating,” he said, adding that the position takes more than just voting. “A City Council member has to be out there really looking for opportunities, and also creating those opportunities.”

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