‘Our Loss is Deep:’ Ramos’ Legacy Lives On
July 1, 2015
If Jason Ramos saw a need, he addressed it.
The moment he realized there were students living in housing at Dalton State who were going without food – even if that was only for one meal – he created a service to fix the problem. Ramos enlisted the help of others on campus to create the Birdfeeder, a food pantry for students living in housing.
Ramos, the assistant director of residence life, died last week in a multi-car wreck on I-75 in Ooltewah, Tenn. He was one of six whose lives were claimed in that crash. Ramos was traveling to Brunswick, Ohio on vacation to visit family.
“He was a get-it-done kind of person,” said Natalie Bates, director of residence life. “Nothing stopped him when he saw a need. With his passing, one of my personal and professional goals is to do everything I can to extend and continue his legacy of the Birdfeeder.”
The Ramos family has asked that in lieu of flowers people wishing to remember Ramos consider making contributions to continue that legacy. It’s something Bates isn’t taking lightly. With the addition of more traditional on-campus housing in 2016, Bates says the Birdfeeder will change, and she hopes that means she can open its services to any student on campus.
Bates, as well as many residential life students, says there was no stigma from utilizing the Birdfeeder. Receiving food from the pantry is as much a part of living in housing as is using the game room or the fire pit.
“I think we have all used it,” said Tanyeal Tolbert, a student who works in residence life. “I have no family support. I work and go to school. It has helped me many times.”
Though William Melendez’s situation is different, he says there have been times he’s received food from the Birdfeeder too. Melendez is the head residence assistant.
“It doesn’t matter what walk of life you’re from, when you come to college you’re on your own for the first time,” Bates said. “It’s different. You’re managing money and groceries. Your mom isn’t the one buying your groceries anymore. Every student needs a little help from time to time. Jason saw that and he wanted to provide that help.”
The Birdfeeder is a large part of the legacy Ramos left behind, but it isn’t all. He was instrumental in beginning other activities and programs in residential life – a Halloween party, a block party, residence life appreciation week, bonfires, and fireside chats, where serious issues were addressed.
“We are all in mourning. Our loss is deep,” Bates said. “We were like oil and water. But it was one of the best work relationships I’ve ever had. He was brutally honest. He was a friend. He was a boss to the student workers. When you live on campus, your work and personal life blend together. It’s not a 9-5 job; it’s 24-7. This campus community had become family to him. His relationship with his students was so special.”
Melendez, who worked closely with Ramos, said he was always straight-forward, but remained professional.
“He had a way of making you feel like part of his family, like you were special,” he said. “He had a take it or leave it personality. But he was liked for that reason. His personality is what Dalton State needed to help continue moving away from that junior college mentality. He embraced change and saw how to do things to move forward. He wasn’t necessarily by-the-book. He had a natural vibe about him – strong and confident. He would tell you things are going right and well and to just trust in what’s happening.”
Ramos kept an open-door policy with his students. Drew Serrette said Ramos helped him through some difficult times.
“You could just talk to him,” Serrette said. “Last year I was struggling in applied calculus. He told me about his experience and that it was one of the hardest math classes he had to take. He encouraged me to get a tutor. So I did, and I passed. When he saw me, he encouraged me to study. He was there for me every step of the way.”
Tolbert said Ramos recognized each person’s challenges and tried to help them strengthen those areas.
“He pushed us,” she said. “I would take the fall for everyone else. He encouraged me not to be afraid to speak up. I could be completely open with him. I started standing up for myself more.”
When he saw a resident falling in an area, Ramos pushed them. Serrette said he was given more responsibilities in certain areas to help him be more successful.
Residential students gathered recently for a bonfire to celebrate Ramos’ life. Several will travel to Ohio for his funeral.
Mass of Christian burial for Ramos will be celebrated Friday at 1 p.m. at St. Ambrose Church in Brunswick. The family will receive friends there from 11 a.m. until Mass. A time of reflection with the family will follow.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to Dalton State College, Birdfeeder Food Bank, 650 College Drive, Attn: Fiscal Affairs – Jason’s Memory, Dalton, GA 30720.