‘A light that cannot and will not be put out’

Recent graduate Gloria Bliss-Ramos holds her daughter, Isabelle, who is dressed up for the occasion

In her own words, Gloria Bliss-Ramos has had a “lot gone on” during her high school years. But that didn’t stop her from finishing high school and planning her future.

She tells of a home life that included extremely difficult relationships and ongoing conflicts. “Sometimes we didn’t have heat, no electricity,” she recalled. “And sometimes I wasn’t sure if I would be alone.”

Gloria made her home sometimes with either parent, a willing aunt or grandma, and even with a boyfriend and his family for a while. She eventually landed with a local family willing to watch over both her and her younger sister.

Gloria Bliss-Ramos doesn’t hide her excitement as she enters the auditorium for the graduation ceremony

Struggles at School

Instability at home affected her ability to keep up at school, Gloria said.

“I was missing classes and got behind on my work, and then one day I was told I had a week to get my grades up if I wanted to stay in school.”

A school counselor suggested New Beginnings, the district’s alternative high school, and Gloria took advantage of the chance for her own new beginning.

“Gloria was behind on credits when she came to us, but she made school a priority and made them up,” said Julia Wilcox, New Beginnings instructor. “I feel blessed that I have been able to be a part of her life. She has had many issues in life, but she is able to bounce back and see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

After about a year, Gloria became pregnant with her now 9-month-old daughter, Isabelle. “I was so excited. I just love children,” she said. “I knew I could be a good mom.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, pregnancy and birth contribute significantly to high school dropout rates among female students, with about 50 percent of teen mothers receiving a high school diploma by age 22, compared to 90 percent for those who do not give birth.

But New Beginnings teachers were willing to work with a flexible schedule, she said, and she credits Wilcox with keeping her motivated. “Ms. Wilcox pushed me hard. She did everything she could to help me when I needed it.”

After her daughter’s birth, “it was hard to come back, but I pushed myself for her (Wilcox),” Gloria said. “She makes me laugh, even when I don’t want to.”

Graduating senior Gloria Bliss-Ramos, left, and New Beginnings teacher Julia Wilcox share a hug

Emotional Setbacks

Gloria couldn’t hold back the tears as she shared the loss of two beloved grandmothers. First, her boyfriend’s grandmother. “She lived with Austin’s family and she was always there for me,” Gloria said.

A few months later, her own grandmother died. “I lived with her a couple of times. It is just too much to bear. I have had a lot of loss lately,” Gloria said.

Despite it all, Gloria pressed on and gave the student address at the New Beginnings graduation ceremony on May 22.

“I have talked to many of you who didn’t think they would make it here tonight,” she told her fellow graduates. “But you are here, and from this day forward you can do whatever you want, whether it is a job, college or whatever.”

Gloria said she is concentrating on becoming the best mother she can be, and has set her sights on a four-month tech program offered at Grand Rapids Community College.

“She is definitely going to follow her dreams and be successful,” Wilcox said. “Nothing will hold her back. Her resilience is not something we see in all young adults, but she has a light that cannot and will not be put out.  Congratulations to her for persevering and never giving up.”

Gloria Bliss-Ramos has spent much of her time attending to her studies
Janice Holst
Janice Holst has been both a teacher and a journalist. A former MLive reporter, she wrote features and covered local government and schools for Advance Newspapers for nearly two decades. She also was a recipe columnist and wrote features for Mature Life Style and occasional entertainment pieces for On The Town magazines. She lives in Sparta Township and is thrilled to spend some of her retirement hours writing the stories of the northern Kent County school districts. Read Janice's full bio

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