Fourth of July Brings ‘Fulfillment of Joy’ to Graduate and Mentor of Annandale High School
With the support of his Annandale High School community, Mario Villanueva Ramos became a United States citizen last month. In 2007 he arrived in the area from El Salvador, and found the support and opportunities he was seeking for himself and his family.
“Becoming a citizen is important to me because it means more opportunities for my whole family; such as a good education for my children and better job opportunities,” he says. “The Fourth of July this year will be a fulfillment of joy for my family because I got my citizenship.”
Ramos and his fiancee Amelia came to the United States in search of a better life. Despite the challenges of living in a new country and learning a new language, Ramos earned his high school diploma from Annandale High School. He credits his success to hard work and the support of his teachers.
“When I arrived at Annandale, the teachers offered something special — something more than the curriculum — and it was something that is not always found in every school,” he says. “First of all, they didn’t see me as just another student but rather they affirmed me as a human being, as someone who belonged. They made me, and all of the students, believe that we were part of something bigger. Moreover, [Principal Shawn] DeRose and the staff at Annandale take care of and support each other creating a really special environment in the school.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Ramos returned to Annandale High School to work as a classroom monitor, where he quickly built strong relationships with staff and students alike. His impact was so meaningful that he was selected by the Class of 2021 to deliver their commencement address, which he delivered in both English and Spanish.
“Many of our students can relate to my story because they share similar experiences,” he says. “Students in FCPS need real stories that motivate them to persevere and reach their potential in life. I hope my story inspires and challenges them to take full advantage of their education so they will be set up for success after high school.”
Each year, Ramos became more integral to the school community, referred to as Atom Nation. Currently, he supports students in ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) and Spanish classes as an instructional assistant, is the sponsor of the Spanish Honor Society, and serves as a mentor in the On Time Graduation Program.
“Atom Nation is my second home,” Ramos says. “This amazing place provided me with a lot of joy and a sense of belonging in all areas of my life.”
And, Ramos says they have continued to support him; both on his journey to become a teacher and a United States citizen. Recently, he enrolled in Northern Virginia Community College's Teaching Professional Program, where he is working towards completing the first step in becoming a licensed teacher in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
When he was studying for his citizenship exam earlier this year, Ramos relied on the support of his History teacher colleagues to help him prepare. In May, he told a few of his colleagues about passing the exam. The staff was so excited for Ramos that they organized a surprise celebration after school.