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Finding Luis

Encouraging others to be who they are, ‘without fear and with confidence’

Godwin — Luis Ramos-Sanchez was attending a 2018 graduation when his world changed.

“I was like, Wow, here is an openly gay person who was the class president,” he recalled. “I was looking around and people were respecting this person and listening. 

“He motivated me to not be afraid to speak my truth, and to know that I was not alone.”

Luis had struggled with his identity from an early age, only accepting that he was gender fluid a few years ago. It was a journey he often felt as if he took alone, and one that he freely shares in hopes of helping others know they are not.

“With his chin held high, Luis showed that he is able to face any task head-on, and do so willingly,” said Dean of Students Troy Maleport. “There were some tough things that came Luis’s way in his four years. I do not recall a time where Luis complained about any of them. He put his head down and went to work.”

Luis Ramos-Sanchez went from barely getting into high school to being elected senior class president (courtesy)

Beginning His Search

Luis began his Godwin school career as a kindergartner at North Elementary. Even in his elementary years, he said he always felt different, but it was not until he reached middle school that the differences became noticeable both to Luis and to other students.

“I was bullied a lot in middle school,” Luis said. “There were the slurs and getting beat up by students, it really all affected me. There were times when I would not get up to go to school.”

During this time, Luis faced other life challenges, which included becoming increasingly aware that culturally — Luis is Hispanic — being gay was not accepted. He fell into depression, a stage in the process of understanding who he was, he said.

To try to help stem the bullying at school, Luis made the decision to come out as bisexual.

“I thought by doing it that maybe people would not be as mean.” But, he said, “It was still the same, and I still felt terrible. 

“I wasn’t being my true self and I was going to be judged for that.”

In eighth grade, Luis came out as gay, but still was not happy with himself. Battling depression, he said things only became worse when his parents learned of his choice through his peers. 

“My attendance went down and my grades were so poor I didn’t think there was any way I would be going on to high school,” he recalled.

Proudly showing off his diploma is grad Luis Ramos-Sanchez (courtesy)

A Place of Acceptance

Luis entered high school in fall 2018 and found his place.

“I found my own people,” he said. “In high school you are not going to be able to hang out with every person in the school, so you make your own circle because of the activities you are involved in at your school.”

Luis became active with the marching band colorguard and immediately found mentors who he said helped and guided him. He also found support from the teachers.

“No matter what I was going through, there would be a teacher there for me,” Luis said. There was Tracy Kraft, who was his freshman math teacher. He also worked with Kraft while serving on the Student Council. Luis said he and band teacher Roger Wagner did not connect at first but found a path to do so, and in English teacher Josh Sanders he found a person with whom he could talk.

Teacher and yearbook adviser Christina Williams said one of Luis’ best qualities is his understanding, and how he makes people feel comfortable to share their concerns with him.

“There are several times Luis and I had to talk about some situations that might have gotten him in trouble,” Maleport said. “But his personality made it much easier to handle than it could have been. This is a skill that I don’t think he realizes can help him overcome anything.”

Being true to yourself is key to overcoming challenges, according to Luis Ramos-Sanchez (courtesy)

‘Just be Yourself

“Luis is a very unique human,” Williams said. “I know that in middle school he was someone that his classmates not only had a hard time understanding, but was picked on and bullied.

“Because of his character and patience with people, he was able to not only overcome that challenge, but he was voted senior class president this year.”

One of Luis’s prouder moments was as captain of the color guard during his senior year. It was an opportunity to give back the way his mentors did for him, he said.

‘Now, speaking my truth is one of the most important things for me.’

– Luis Ramos-Sanchez

Maleport said it is Luis’ energy and passion that he will remember most, as he brought a ton of school spirit and helped others do the same. 

Williams said it will be “his style, but also his ability to encourage others to be who they are, without fear and with confidence.”

Luis puts it this way: “Be yourself. Don’t take anything from anybody. You are molding you and you shouldn’t feel like people are molding you.

“I didn’t quite get that as I was always a follower and not a leader. Now, speaking my truth is one of the most important things for me.”

Luis hopes to continue to motivate others. His goal is to work with children, he said, perhaps as a pediatric nurse.

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Joanne Bailey-Boorsma
Joanne Bailey-Boorsma
Joanne Bailey-Boorsma is a reporter covering Kent ISD, Godwin Heights, Kelloggsville, Forest Hills and Comstock Park. The salutatorian for the Hartland Public Schools class of 1985, she changed her colors from blue and maize to green and white by attending Michigan State University, where she majored in journalism. Joanne moved to the Grand Rapids area in 1989, where she started her journalism career at the Advance Newspapers. She later became the editor for On-the-Town magazine, a local arts and entertainment publication. Her eldest daughter is a nurse, working in Holland, and her youngest attends Oakland University. Both are graduates from Byron Center High School. She is a volunteer for the Van Singel Fine Arts Advisory Board and the Kent District Library. In her free time, Joanne enjoys spending time with her family, checking out local theater and keeping up with all the exchange students they have hosted through the years. Read Joanne's full bio


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