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‘I’ve Got to Be an Example’

Immigrant, School Liaison Registers to Vote

Jaime Ramirez is “not a political guy,” but he plans to vote Nov. 8 for the first time as an American.

An immigrant from Mexico, Ramirez registered to vote the day before the deadline. A U.S. citizen since 1997, Ramirez, 50, said he wasn’t compelled to register until this year, but now he wants to serve as an example for other Hispanic community members to practice what is their right.

Ramirez is the community liaison for Godfrey-Lee Public Schools, working to meet the needs of families in the one-square-mile, mostly Hispanic, school district. He said he can relate to many community members, some of whom have limited English skills, who are afraid to register because they are unsure what it involves. “I was nervous,” he recalled. “I didn’t want to do it before. At least I can contribute one vote to choose the right president.”

At Godfrey-Lee, Ramirez, who immigrated at age 21, works to connect parents with schools, emphasizing the need to attend conferences and to become involved in their children’s education. He helps out wherever parents and students gather, at coat drives, district-wide events and celebrations, conferences and the soccer field. He is also the high school’s varsity soccer coach.

He sees his role in the district as a great way to encourage others to vote. “A lot of parents see I do good in the community,” he said. “It’s time for me to do something nice and teach the parents in the community… I’ve got to be an example.”

Jaime is interviewed on the radio station La Mejor GR after registering to vote
Jaime is interviewed on the radio station La Mejor GR after registering to vote

According to 2016 information from the Pew Research Center, based in Washington, D.C., Latinos historically have been consistently underrepresented in the electorate, compared with their share of eligible voters or the overall population. In the current survey, 49 percent of all Latinos say they are “absolutely certain” they are registered to vote. That compares with 69 percent of blacks and 80 percent of whites who say they are certain.

Ramirez shared that message on Wyoming-based radio station La Mejor GR, where he also works. Jaime was featured in a podcast while registering at the Hispanic Center of West Michigan, in Grand Rapids. “It takes, like, 10 minutes at the most,” he said of registering.

All he needed was his driver’s license and social security number. “For me, it’s a pleasure and an honor to get registered to vote,” he said.

Ramirez said he inspired four friends to register, and talked to students on the soccer team about voting when they’re old enough. “Encourage your parents to become a citizen so they can do it, too,” he told them.

Carol Lautenbach, Godfrey-Lee Public School assistant superintendent of teaching learning and accountability, said Ramirez stands out as an example in the community.

“Mr. Ramirez is a role model for students; he encourages the kids he coaches to show up for practice, to try and to work as a team,” she said. “By registering to vote, he’s also a role model to adults by encouraging them to show up and be part of the democratic process, a privilege that many may not have experienced before.”


SNN Feature on Jaime Ramirez

La Mejor GR radio

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is managing editor and reporter, covering Kentwood, Lowell and Wyoming. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013, and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio


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