Amaris is graduating with her Masters in Social Work this fall 2018. Following graduation, she will be remaining in the local Silver City area to begin working in a counseling center for trauma and recovery. The Social Work Department will be having a pinning ceremony the night before graduation to celebrate the graduates in their accomplishments.
Q: What was your favorite experience from your time at Western New Mexico University?
A: “My favorite experience at WNMU was probably planning the Autism Walk. It was done as part of my internship and it was cool because that isn’t really my strong suit. I didn’t really know that much about autism. I have learned a lot since then, but my focus has been with substance use and recovery, trauma, and homelessness. Those are the things that I’m really passionate about. Working with people in the autism community and families directly impacted means a lot to me now and it’s something that I want to continue even though it’s not what I’m going to be doing professionally. That experience awakened that part of me that desired to see more done in our community for that population.”
Q:What advice would you give to students who are seeking a job immediately following graduation?
A: “Network. It’s different for me because I’m staying here locally, but wherever you’re going to work, make those connections and make sure people know that you’re passionate about your work. It’s all about connecting with the people that you want to work with, showing people that you care and that you’re going to work hard for them.”
Q: Do you think that your experience as a woman or as a member of the LGBTQ+ community influenced your journey at Western New Mexico University?
A: “The whole reason that I started attending this university was because I moved here to change my life. I came here homeless. I came here as somebody who had chronic homelessness for fifteen years. As a woman on the streets I experienced a lot of trauma. I also battled long term addiction. Then I moved here and I came to this university and I just knew that I wanted to help people. I was originally majoring in Nursing, and then I went and I did all of my CNA courses and it just wasn’t sitting right. Becoming a nurse would be helping people, but it’s not how I wanted to help people. I came up to the Social Work department to speak with somebody about possibly changing my degree, and they were up here singing ‘sometimes I feel like I’ve got to, run away’. It was all the women in the department and they are singing this song, and I felt like I was home. Music was a big part of my recovery and my life and I instantly felt comfortable. I spoke with Sarah Guck when she was still working in the department, and I told her a little bit about my history and my past because I was really worried about that impacting me professionally. She told me that knowing where you come from and being able to use that as a way to understand your clients and help your clients because you have been there is powerful. She empowered me to come into Social Work and to be a part of it.
I want to work with people that have experienced trauma, and not necessarily just women. As a woman that came from the place that I came from, I would love to work with women to be able to empower them to get out of that darkness and to move forward. You can move forward. It doesn’t matter what has happened in your life. You can always move forward and you can be successful and have an actual life.
If you would have told me ten years ago that I’d be sitting here today and that I’d be getting my masters degree, I would have laughed at you because I was hopeless. I was homeless and I had nothing. Having the right people in your life, those people that at the lowest moments looked past what you were going through and saw you as a person, is so powerful. I didn’t have an I.D. and I didn’t have a birth certificate. I restarted with my bare bones basic needs and I was trying to get my life together from nothing. It was like a rebirth. Silver City has been my rebirth and Social Work has been my rebirth. I don’t even know what to say about it except that I’ll probably cry talking about it. It’s been an honor to be able to grow from my past and not regret it anymore and to see it instead as a tool to help others.”
Q: If students are in a lost or a hopeless place right now, what would you say to them?
A: “To not give up and to talk to somebody. Don’t hold it in. I think a lot of times we get so caught up in what we are going through that we don’t really reach out. We don’t think that others are going to understand. Life is hard for everybody. Something that is really hard for me might be easy for someone else and vice versa. Something that I might find trivial could be huge for them. We never know what other people are going through. Understand that everybody’s life is hard and we need to reach out, we need to rely on each other. Human beings crave connection. For so long I thought that I had to be strong and do everything on my own and if I couldn’t I just pushed everybody out because I didn’t want them to see me weak or struggling. For years I didn’t have anything to do with my family. That was the exact wrong response. I should have been opening up my arms and seeking help.
The fact is you don’t know unless you try and that’s when you find your real family. It’s not necessarily a blood connection, it’s the people that are really there for you. Even though it’s hard to let go of certain people, sometimes doors close for a reason. Moving past that and moving on and realizing that. I found a family here. My partner and I and her family are my family. I do have my blood family and I love them and some of them are going to be here next week and I’m so excited about that. I’m blessed, life is beautiful.”
Q: To your current family that you’ve made, how do you think they helped you through this process? Is there someone here at WNMU that also inspired you to get through all of the challenges?
A: I find inspiration in all kinds of people. My family here, my wife and her parents and the people in her family that have encouraged me; they don’t know a lot of my history, but they’ve accepted me with open arms. They have always been really good to be and I have never felt judged. I have always felt a part of the family. Having that acceptance and having people there for me throughout this and having them to encourage me has been important. I’ve had that feeling like I can’t do this and I’ve had people tell me that I can because I’ve been through worse. Reminders to breathe because you are going to get through it. Patti West has helped me immensely by introducing me to the autism world and giving me opportunities within that realm to learn and to grow as a professional and as a human. Having that empathy for people and really seeing what people go through. All of my professors have been awesome. It’s a really good group of people.”
The 2019 Autism Walk will be April 13th at Fox Field from 10 am to 3pm. Amaris Ramirez-Fey is requesting for more people to volunteer their time if they want to get involved. Agencies are encouraged to reach out to have tables and activities at the Autism Walk to let people know what they are offering and what services they provide within our community.
One hundred percent of the money raised goes into the Autism Walk and back into the autism community. There is a fundraiser on Facebook that people can donate to and if they feel uncomfortable donating online, they can write a check and send it to the university. The address is P.O. box 680 and checks can be written out to the School of Social Work with Autism Walk 2019 in the memo box. It will be processed through the university foundation and there will be a tax write-off. If students want to volunteer they can contact the Social Work Department, email firstname.lastname@example.org or they can call Amaris Ramirez-Fey directly at (575)654-5995.