Former migrant child to head nation’s first ‘I Have a Dream’ school

Alder Elementary, one of Oregon’s most impoverished schools and the first school in the nation to be adopted by the “I Have a Dream” Foundation, will be embarking on a 15-year experiment this fall, led by Alder Principal Paz Ramos.
Principal Paz Ramos and Alder Elementary children
Principal Paz Ramos and Alder Elementary children

As part of the Dream designation, Ramos has set a goal of college graduation for his students, a huge challenge considering that 120 of the 580 children are homeless, and less than 15 percent currently graduate from high school.

Alder children will be given academic and family support, and students from six nearby colleges, including Linfield College, will provide mentoring. Principal Ramos has already taken Alder kids for an overnight visit to Linfield, his alma mater, where they visited a science lab and tossed Frisbees on the football field.

Ramos, selected for the national honor by the foundation’s Oregon chapter, identifies with the children at the Portland school. He grew up in a migrant family, harvesting fruits and vegetables throughout the West. He and his brothers and sisters slept in ditches on the way from one farm to another, and he experienced racism and poverty firsthand. His struggle to get a college education has given him a fierce determination to help other children envision a life outside the violent, destitute neighborhoods where they live.

A teacher planted the seed of a college education when Ramos was in eighth grade, and he still remembers the day his mom and dad proudly dropped him off at Linfield, where he eventually helped the Wildcats win the national football championship.

“I’m grateful for my college experience,” Ramos says. “My professors and coaches trusted me and invested in me, and they gave me hope. That’s what we want to do for our kids at Alder.”


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