Torn Between Two Worlds Early in Life; Man on a Mission Today
Council for a Strong America Board Member Michael Ramos shares his personal stake in afterschool programming
The Roots of Change
Mike Ramos was 3 years of age when he and his younger brother lost their mother to suicide. He was raised by a hard-working single father and two loving grandparents, but grief marked his earliest years. Growing up in a small hamlet of California called Okieville that got its name from those who headed to California to escape the 1930s Dust Bowl, Mike’s surroundings were tough from the start. One side of the family spoke Spanish, and the other English, making Mike the translator for both families. Any child facing these challenges early in life could have felt lost—and might have even stayed that way.
Becoming a Change Agent
By middle school, Mike was assaulted by members of a local gang in an attempt to recruit him. When he refused, they threatened his life. Mike’s father worked at a nearby Air Force base, and, as a single father, wasn’t home as much as he wanted to be. So, he needed a place for his kids to be safe after school. Mike’s first visits to his local Boys and Girls Club may have been an escape from gang violence, but the habit grew. It changed into a source of true belonging and lifelong purpose for Mike. By the time he started his career, he had founded his own out-of-school project, translating a love of sports he had honed at the Boys & Girls Club into innovative programs serving local kids.
To this day, I really see how all kids—especially kids from lower socioeconomic backgrounds—should start these programs early, and have that advantage as soon as possible in life.
Michael Ramos, Former San Bernardino (CA) County District Attorney
Leading the Way: Fighting Crime and Investing in Kids
Determined to dedicate his life to public service, Mike continued working with young people, attended law school at night, became a prosecutor, and, in 2002, made history when he became the first Hispanic District Attorney in San Bernardino, an office he held for 16 years. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed Mike to serve on the Governor’s Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board on January 23, 2004. In 2009, Mike created the county’s Coalition Against Sexual Exploitation (CASE).
His expertise in youth crime intervention and prevention paid off throughout his tenure, and his focus often turned to truancy reduction as well. By 2016, Mike was sworn in as President of the National District Attorneys Association, where he had previously served as Vice President and Co-Chair of the NDAA Training & Education Committee. He continues to connect his life’s work right back to those early life experiences.
I don’t know what would have happened to me [without the Boys and Girls Club], because I was one of those kids with a ton of energy. When I got involved with Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, I realized how important a great preschool education would have been for a kid like me. In the years I have left, Fight Crime: Invest in Kids and Council for a Strong America are a big priority. How many kids could we save across America if we really invest in these programs?
Michael Ramos, FORMER SAN BERNARDINO (CA) COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY
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