By NICHOLE GOLDEN, Staff Writer | Published May 15, 2014
Balbina Ramos “believes in doing whatever it takes to help family, strangers and anyone in need,” said Monsignor Donovan High School in its nomination of her as the outstanding senior for The Georgia Bulletin. They attribute her willingness to help others to her Catholic upbringing. “Many teachers feel she is the person that will (and has) literally given anyone the shirt off her back.”
ATHENS—Doctors did not expect Balbina Ramos to have a long life.
As an infant, Balbina was diagnosed with a brain problem that required surgery.
Ramos, the daughter of Israel and Balbina Suarez Ramos, was born in Mexico. When doctors told them to say their goodbyes, her mother decided to pray daily for the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
“She said that the doctors told her I wasn’t going to live past the age of 3,” said Balbina, a soccer player at Monsignor Donovan High School in Athens.
By the next checkup, doctors could no longer find a problem.
“She truly feels that Our Lady is the one who helped us,” said Balbina. “That’s made me devoted.”
The family is involved in all the Marian ministries at St. Joseph Church in Athens.
Until receiving an offer to play soccer at the University of South Carolina Salkehatchie, Ramos was unsure of her post-high school plans.
Ramos has also played volleyball and basketball and was a cheerleader.
“My family is big on sports,” she said.
Before leaving for college, Ramos is set to spend the summer working at the YMCA’s summer camp for younger children. She was able to play football there and thrives on competition.
“It has played a big part in my life,” she said about the YMCA programs.
She first attended public school and then in eighth grade enrolled in St. Joseph School.
“That was a great transition point for me,” she said.
Although she was concerned about being the only Hispanic student at the time, she found a very tolerant environment at the Catholic school.
“They don’t try to bully you. It really is a family,” she said.
For incoming Monsignor Donovan students, Ramos advises them to “come in knowing it’s going to be difficult and challenging.”
Don’t be afraid to ask teachers for help when needed.
“They are very encouraging,” she said.
For students unsure of their path in life and for her younger brother, Ramos also has wisdom to share. “Most of all I just say that we should trust in God.”
Her favorite classes have been math, science and U.S. history, even though history was also her toughest. She also loves being part of the art and photography club and its teacher, Lindsay Conner.
She sketches as an outlet to relieve stress.
“I’ll just start drawing. It’s usually just scribble scrabble,” she said.
“In the art room she was not afraid to be creative. She is an extraordinary student,” said Conner.
The art teacher called Ramos an unsung hero at the school.
“She is very giving, always helping her friends, her peers and her school. She is strong in faith and it reflects in all that she does,” added Conner.
Last year’s state championship soccer game provides a special memory for Ramos.
After a very successful season of 9-0 at home and winning a regional title, the Lady Rams lost in the finals. But everyone from Monsignor Donovan traveled to Hinesville to support and cheer them on.
“It proves we are a family,” said Ramos.
The spring of 2013 was also a difficult time for her with the death of her mentor, Father Juan Carlos Arce Betancourt. She said her teachers, counselors and classmates all kept her smiling despite the loss of her priest.
Father Juan Carlos was the one who encouraged her to attend Catholic school and to be involved in youth activities at the parish.
“I owe him that I’m here at Monsignor Donovan,” she said.
During the first semester of this school year, Ramos volunteered a large portion of time to helping Spanish I students, selecting it over study hall.
Recently, she took the initiative to apply for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program of the federal government, allowing her to acquire a driver’s license and to work. The ability to drive helps her family in many ways.
She is contemplating a business major in college but will keep her options open.
“I’m that type of person that I have to pray to see what is God’s will for me,” she said.