Sparta — Senior Mia Ramos is one of 65 high-school students statewide to be named a recipient of the 2021 Breaking Traditions Awards from the Michigan Department of Education.
The awards go to students in technical education programs that are pursuing careers in which fewer than 25% of those working in those fields are their gender. Annual recipients, nominated by their instructors, are recognized for overcoming obstacles and stereotypes in their field.
“I have been exposed to the trades my entire life,” Mia said, “And I have a passion for it and have always liked hard-working people.”
With both parents working for an electrical company, and because her mother is a dispatcher, Mia said she has been exposed to “electricians, plumbers and HVAC guys my whole life.”
In addition, her grandfather’s career was in tool and die. One summer, Mia “helped wire up hotels with eight boys, myself and the electrical team,” she said.
She knows the trades are the best fit for her. “I am usually not able to sit still, and I enjoy working with my hands,” she said.
Working as a waitress during high school helped her gain social skills, but now she is ready to begin her future in a trade. “I plan to go straight to work and see where it takes me from there,” she said.
She is passing up a job offer in Texas, saying it is too far from home right now, but has a few connections, and potential interviews.
“I am just waiting until (commencement), and then I will figure out where I am going to work,” she said. “I am hoping to find a company that offers training or additional schooling while I am working — if possible, get paid to learn some new things.”
Working full time likely won’t discourage her from her love of music, which she says she got from an uncle. Participating in the school band for seven years as well as in the marching band in high school, Mia has never been afraid of a challenge. She plays the baritone saxophone, which when she first started was taller than she.
Building a Diverse Workforce
Making the Breaking Traditions list was a huge highlight for Mia. “I was so proud when I found out that I won,” she said. “I worked very hard on the paperwork and really wanted this.”
Mia wanted to follow in the footsteps of her best friend, Sarah Tomlinson. The girls met while attending welding class at Kent Career Tech Center. Sarah, who was homeschooled and graduated from Byron Center last year, was a recipient of a Breaking Traditions Award last year.
Achieving success in nontraditional career and technical education programs makes these students role models for their peers who may be considering similar career paths, said State Superintendent Michael Rice.
“Michigan benefits from the Breaking Traditions Award recipients through an increasingly diverse workforce necessary to meet the challenges of a 21st century,” Rice said.
Mia is one of those role models.
“Whether female or male, there is a trade for everyone,” she said. “I am hoping that when people see that more than one person won this award, it might encourage other girls to think about getting into the trades.”