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January 22, 2024
Meet Valentina Ramirez: a high school senior showing leadership to help Scholars and their families navigate language barriers.
Valentina is devoted to giving back to her community, and she leads with empathy based on personal experience. A current senior at Buckingham Browne & Nichols School (BB&N), she recalls the many struggles she went through filling out applications during the admissions process.
“When I was applying to independent schools, my parents couldn’t fill out the parent statements because of the language barrier… It had to fall on my plate and I had to take on that role to fill out my portion of the application as well as my parents’.”
At a recent Scholar panel, the issue only became more apparent when other Scholars voiced similar challenges. In response, Valentina generated a brilliant idea that would provide support to families while creating community: she would help organize an application workshop.
Showing Up for Everybody
Following the panel event, Valentina immediately brought her idea to Steppingstone’s Vice President of Enrollment Management, Mary Sullivan, and the placement team was more than willing to help bring her idea to fruition. Valentina also thanks Jorge Delgado, Director of Enrollment Management at BB&N, for being so open to her ideas and for demonstrating a willingness to contribute—even showing up with his Spanish-speaking mother to help translate for families. The workshop saw a great turnout for its first event, with 15 families paired with volunteers who provided help with translation, technology support, and reviewing parent statements.
“The day of the event, I made Ms. Sullivan and Mr. Delgado promise to call me back to help them with future events, even if I have to do it remotely… I am totally willing to help reach out to people. And hopefully, I’ll even be around for the next event. I don’t want to just leave it at that; I definitely want to be a part of that expansion.”
With hopes to continue these workshops, Valentina sees this first event as “a good practice run.” She wants to continue making an impact and expand her workshops to families beyond Steppingstone, where she first found her spark for community involvement.
The Start of Something New
Steppingstone was first brought to Valentina’s attention when her friend who was already a Scholar told her about the organization and “all the amazing resources” it offers.
“When my friend told me about it, I immediately asked my mom to ask her mom about it. I have always been a very driven person, and I wanted to do it to get more education opportunities.”
After joining Steppingstone, Valentina received support throughout her academic journey and with the independent school application process.
“When I was a Scholar, I was waitlisted and rejected from all the schools I applied to, so Steppingstone helped me reapply to all the schools, and the second time around I applied to BB&N. I was helped with editing my essays and filling out the financial aid forms.”
Valentina’s achievement of getting into BB&N only marked the beginning of her growth within Steppingstone. As someone who really values giving back, she dedicated her past two summers to working as a teaching assistant (TA) at Steppingstone, where she was able to connect with Scholars from a different perspective.
“I’ve been wanting to be a TA since I was a Scholar. When I was a Scholar, I had TAs like Mr. Esteban Gutierrez (a Milton Academy alumnus and recent Harvard University graduate)… I just remembered thinking they were so cool and wanting to work with Scholars just like them… I really appreciate being a part of Steppingstone, being given the opportunity to work with the kids, and spending time with them.”
Community involvement is a consistent priority for Valentina, and something that she continues to bring with her everywhere—including to her school.
Taking Leadership at BB&N
Shortly after starting at BB&N, Valentina became involved with the admissions team where she helped lead school tours for prospective students and families. During her time there, she also started her own affinity space, the Latinx Hispanic Student Association (LHSA).
It was through this space that she met Director Jorge Delgado, who attended one of their meetings. When reflecting on her past experiences at BB&N, Valentina is very grateful for the strong support system that always surrounded her.
“Something I am very grateful for at my school is that they were always willing to let me try new things… There were no if’s or but’s. They were always willing to help me.”
With this level of support and a high quality education, Valentina has applied her learnings and experiences toward her future endeavors—including a law career.
Student by Day, Paralegal by Night
Coming from an immigrant family, Valentina saw firsthand the struggles her family faced during the immigration process—which exposed her to what the law system looked like and the many different roles within its sector. Knowing that this was what she wanted to pursue, she became a paralegal by the time she was 17.
“I started as a paralegal because the lawyer I work for was my parents' lawyer through their immigration process. Through those years knowing the lawyer, I conveyed my interest in law, so I reached out again my freshman year and asked if I could intern and organize files, and other small office tasks like that.”
Valentina knows that by becoming an immigration lawyer, she can help other immigrants and their families just like the immigration lawyer did for her own parents.
“It is truly such an amazing job. I have my own clients and work on different cases like asylum cases, naturalizations, petitions for relatives, etc. But I just really enjoy connecting to clients and speaking to them. It's such a personal practice where you get to know clients and hear their stories, and I think that's one of my passions: helping others and in the process getting to know them on a personal level. They aren't just a client, they're a person with an incredible story of perseverance.”
New Beginnings to Come in College
As Valentina wraps up her senior year at Buckingham Browne & Nichols, she is hopeful for her future with a strong drive to succeed. Planning to study either political science or criminal justice and then continue on to law school, she moves closer to the career of her dreams.
Steppingstone is an educational nonprofit which serves students of every race, color, religion, sex, gender identity, national or ethnic origin, or political beliefs to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to Scholars enrolled in the program. It does not discriminate on the basis of gender, race, color, disability status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, religion, or national or ethnic origin in the administration of its educational policies, admission policies, scholarship programs, or other organization-administered activities.