Sophia Ramirez: Future Doctor, Politician, and Current Student Representative


Ethan Matthews

Senior Sophia Ramirez is the student representative for the school board.

After years of tests, tears, homework, late night study sessions, after-school activities, and track practices, Sophia Ramirez fondly admits that she’s in no way ready to leave Menchville. Although she’s excited for college and eager to start a career,  she will miss the community that she has surrounded herself with these last four years. That community includes the track team, the Spanish Honors Society, Political Unity Club, Academic Team, Key Club, Project Inclusion, and the Newport News School Board.

Her position as the Newport News School Board Student Representative has given her insight into the political community.

“I sit in on the school board meetings. I don’t vote or anything, but at the end of each meeting I’m allowed to give my input and talk about things that are happening throughout Newport News public schools and provide a student point of view,” Ramirez explains. Ramirez admits she originally felt intimidated by the school board members when she began working with them, “even though they’re  all so nice and go out of their way to be friendly and to talk to me.”

She explains that she learned about the school board position when she joined SAGE her sophomore year. SAGE is the school division’s Advisory Group on Education, comprised of students from each high school in the district. They meet monthly with the superintendent to provide a student voice, review educational ads, and share opinions and ideas on Newport News school initiatives. SAGE is also responsible for the selection of the student representative to the school board.

Ramirez knew her sophomore year that she wanted to apply for the student representative position. Each Newport News High School selects one student from a pool of applicants and then the student competes against the students selected from each high school in an interview with the SAGE committee. “There were a lot of really talented and amazing people who I was up against for the position. I didn’t think I was going to win, because everyone who qualified was so qualified and so well spoken. That was the hardest part. I wanted all of them to win,” Ramirez laughs. “I was like, “Oh my gosh, you’re so cool, you totally deserve this.” That was the hardest part, feeling like I was against these people who were the best and brightest of Newport News Public Schools.”

Because of her time spent with the school board, Ramirez has noticed a big contrast between adults in professional leadership positions and student leaders. “You see the beginnings of leadership in high school. You see people who are going to be leaders and learn how to be leaders. But they’re all guided. As president of the Spanish Honors Society, I always have help from an adult sponsor.” In her time on the Board she has become more aware of the criticism people in public positions constantly face and she and she appreciates the impact their decisions have on the entire school system and the students in it. “At first, I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, these are the people who have controlled my life for the past eight years.’ Yes, I was a little intimidated, but they are all super friendly and what I realized really fast was that they really just care about the students and want to see the students be successful. They are just so, so proud of Newport News Public Schools.”

Ramirez considers her experience on the school board as an incredibly educating experience. “I’ve been able to see politics in action. There are some aspects where I definitely see how they have to be careful. Politics are tricky and people can twist your words, and so that’s a little intimidating to me because I want to eventually go into politics and so I see that you can’t just necessarily say everything that you want to say all the time. Overall it showed me that politics is really what you make it. If you’re working hard and you’re proud of what you’re doing then you’re probably, especially at the local level, doing a good job. It’s really made me realize that it’s something I want to pursue.”

Although Ramirez has a large amount of impressive feats, to her, her greatest accomplishment is maintaining good grades. “You can be the president of clubs. You can take leadership positions and that’s hard, but it’s not constant. It’s also fun. Studying is never fun. Doing homework is never fun. Being in clubs is really fun and they’ll tell you “Oh wow! You’re a leader!” And all this stuff. Yeah, I love it! But you know what’s hard? Maintaining good grades. That is the thing I’m most proud of because, you know, I’ve managed to keep my motivation up. Last year I took calculus and there were multiple occasions where I’d just be staring at the homework and just burst out crying because I did not know how to do it, it was ten o’ clock at night, I had three more hours of homework and I’d had a track meet that day and I was just done. But, you know, I managed to keep pushing myself and work hard. That would be what I consider my greatest accomplishment.”

Alice Shepley, a Spanish teacher from Menchville and the sponsor of the Spanish Honors Society, says she’s seen increased confidence in Ramirez throughout her high school years.

“Her academics are excellent. She has a curiosity about my particular topic but not just that, about the world in general, whether it’s through her travel experience or the books that she’s read or the things that she’s thought about in the past,” Shepley explains. “She’s an extremely curious and bright young lady. She then channels that excellence into her academic endeavors. She makes stellar grades. She never fails to not only master content but go back and find any little detail that she didn’t quite get and make sure she understands it and is able to reproduce the information at a high level later.”

Ramirez reflects on how she’s grown as a person: “I became more confident and I became much happier with myself and kind of more at peace with myself than I had been in the past few years. Middle school is a rough time for everybody but I was just, for a long time, really unhappy, and then I entered high school. I made some really close friendships and I strengthened the friendships that I had and I got into relationships. It really made me happier with myself and more confident and gave me the courage to go out for things like leadership positions and to put myself out there. Yeah, I like how I’ve changed as a person. I’ve become a lot happier. That’s my favorite thing about high school, just because this is probably the happiest I’ve ever been.”

Although Ramirez is interested in politics, she plans on studying to be a doctor first. “I mostly want to be a doctor, but then, like our governor did, I’m hoping to, at some point in my career, branch out and go into politics as well,” Ramirez clarifies. “My dad’s a doctor. He decided to become a doctor when I was about two so I watched him go through that whole experience, I watched him go to medical school and I watched him experience his residency. Before that, he was a teacher. From a really young age he was telling me that “This was the best decision I’ve ever made.” He kind of brainwashed me,” jokes Ramirez. “He was like, “If you want to choose a career, medicine is the career you should do because it’s fulfilling, it’s interesting, and you make a good living.”

Last year Ramirez did a shadowing program to make sure that being a doctor was something she could handle. “I was shadowing two doctors in a local emergency room. At first, I was super overwhelmed because there was all this pain everywhere and they were just so unperturbed. They were unbothered. I was like, “Oh my gosh, how are we laughing over coffee when there’s a guy over in the next room in so much pain he’s passing out?” I think that they kind of have to make themselves used to these things. I was really affected by it, but then I sort of got used to it and started paying more attention to how the doctors worked, how passionate they were, and how hard they worked to really make sure their patients were comfortable and that they were getting the right sort of treatment.  It made me realize that you really can make a difference in people’s lives every single day. It really made me realize that that was what I wanted to do.”

Ramirez credits her success throughout high school to many people, especially her family. “My parents have been really supportive and sympathetic whenever I’m stressed, and they always make sure that I know even if I do poorly on a test or something, they’re still proud of me. And my sister. She knows how it feels to be stressed in high school. She knows how it is. She can kind of empathize and remind me it’s not the end of the world.” She also credits her success to people like Mrs. Nichting, the scholarship counselor who encouraged Ramirez to campaign for positions like the student representative and taught her to remember that in any situation, the worst people can say is no.

Shepley is excited for Ramirez to go out into the world. “I just can’t wait to see what she decides to do with her life and how far she can run with the many talents she’s been given.”