By Gary Kohatsu
The road to personal success is often paved with obstacles. For Moncerrat Ramos, her adulthood journey is about to toe the starting line.
As her thoughts focus on new challenges, she will soon leave high school, close friends and family in the rear-view mirror. Her destination lies 266 miles away in Merced, Calif.
Ramos, 17, will graduate on June 11 from Nathaniel Narbonne High in Harbor City. On Aug. 26, she will enter the University of California, Merced in the San Joaquin Valley. The Compton resident says she plans to study physiology and anatomy.
“I want to further my knowledge of the human body and why it acts the way it does,” says Ramos, who stands 5 foot 6 inches and weights a svelte 135 pounds. “The human body is extremely beautiful with all of its functions.”
She acknowledges being the first in her family to attend college.
Both parents immigrated to the United States from Mexico, Ramos says, and never had an opportunity to complete their high school education. But her parents were “A students” in the subject of work ethic. Her father holds down three jobs, working at the Torrance El Pollo Inka Restaurant, the Bluewater Grill in Redondo Beach, and with a local roofing company, while maintaining a small taco catering business on the side. Ramos’ mother works as a financial center assistant manager for the Bank of America in Carson.
A younger brother, Sebastian, age 7, completes the family dynamics.
Both parents are now American citizens, she adds.
“They came to the United States with nothing, no career, no money, no support… but yet they managed to give it all to me and my brother,” Ramos says. “After so many years of hard work, they bought their own house, and now a new chapter in all of our lives is beginning and that is me going to college.”
Moncerrat Ramos was christened with her first name by her maternal grandmother, who “loved the name because it symbolized a virgin (name Montserrat) found in a cave in Spain.” Ramos’ says also answers to her nickname of Monce.
Academically, Ramos’ says her strengths are English and science, with a proclivity for physiology and anatomy (“always fun to learn new things.” Her admitted weakness is history (“not the biggest fan”).
Law enforcement has also been an area of interest for the teen. She has long had an admiration for the hard-working officers who routinely put their lives on the line. Giving back to the community is another factor in her appreciation of police work.
In August 2018, Ramos attended the Gardena Police Department’s Explorer Academy and on Dec. 1, 2018, she graduated from the GPD Explorer program. Today she holds the rank of corporal.
“Being an explorer is an amazing responsibility. I value all the lessons taught to us because they have brought me to where I am today,” Ramos says. “I have learned numerous amount of things, for example, working hard to achieve anything you set your mind too.”
The Police Explorer program is open to all youth from the community ranging from 14 to 21 years in age, according to the GPD website. The program is a structured program that gives young men and women the academic and technical training needed to become future law enforcement officers. It also gives Explorers the leadership skills and self-discipline needed to become successful community leaders.
One of opportunities afforded Explorers is to compete for college scholarship money.
Last month, Ramos was among seven graduating Gardena-area high school students to earn Gardena Police Foundation scholarships. She was this year’s Explorer standout graduate. The GPF is a 501(c)3 non-profit corporation that provides supplemental resources directly to the Gardena Police Department.
Ramos, like fellow recipients, received a $4,000 scholarship to be distributed in annual installments of $1,000 over four years — and the student maintaining GFD eligibility guidelines.
“Becoming an explorer is not easy but it is worth it,” Ramos says. “You will definitely become busier with all the events and training, but all of the training is meant to help you better yourself. I recommend for any new incoming Explorers to not give up. This program will help you with your future.”
Her Explorer adviser, Sgt. Patrick Goodpaster, says Ramos has talent, smarts and a solid upbringing.
“She’s a very mature young lady, who comes from a good family that taught her good character traits at a young age,” Goodpaster says. “I saw these qualities early on. She’s very intelligent. Finished at the top of her class at the Explorer academy. She has a promising career in whatever she decides to do.”
Likewise, she gives high praise to her advisers.
“They care for us a lot and they guide us through the correct path and help us with anything they can with no hesitation,” Ramos says. “All of the training they set up for us is on their own time.”
Ramos says she has developed some close Explorer friendships in the past two years.
“I appreciate and love all of them,” she says. “I consider them family. We all work together as a team to get things done, they are trustworthy people.”
Besides the leadership and camaraderie, Ramos says the Explorers provided much opportunities and accessibilities.
“I enjoy the ride-alongs a lot,” she says. “You get to ride in the passenger seat of a police unit with one of your advisers. You get to use the computers in the police vehicles and use the radios. You assist in calls with your adviser and you really get a feel of what it is like being an officer.”
Her biggest lesson learned is to take nothing for granted.
Days before she was to be an Explorer graduate in 2018, GPD motor officer Toshio Hirai was killed in a traffic accident just blocks from Ramos’ school in Harbor City.
“(Hirai) was an amazing person… and in a blink it was all over,” she says. “It made me value life and the people around me so much more. Since that event, I work a little harder and take advantage of opportunities because tomorrow is not promised for anyone.”
As for the future, Ramos says she sees herself in grad school in five years, and beyond that, pursuing a career in either law enforcement or in a science-related field. Possibly even a combination of the two areas.
While her future remains to be realized, Ramos says she is moving forward with two valuable characteristics learned from her two families: courage and a will to succeed.
“lf I would have never become an Explorer, I would not have the confidence to step out of my comfort zone,” she says. “And, my parents are an example to me that anything is possible.”