YM&YWHA of Washington Heights & Inwood

Inspiring Local Teens

Larry Ramos may seem like a typical teenager, but once you start talking to him, you understand that there is more under the surface than meets the eye. Now on his way to a dual degree at NYU, you would never have guessed that he immigrated here from the Dominican Republic 5 years ago. 

We asked Larry some questions about himself to get a better understanding of this busy teenager, and what he says may surprise you. From helping other teens with college prep, to bingo with seniors, to helpful life tips, Larry’s story is quite a tale.

How did you find out about our Teen Program, and how did you get involved?

I’ve been always passionate about leadership activities when I was in high school. I was a delegate for the student government who voiced the opinions of my fellow delegates at my school’s leadership team program, became a College Summit peer leader who helped high school seniors to fill out their college applications and oriented them about the process of college admission, worked as an ambassador for the College Now program at CCNY who registered high school juniors and seniors for college level courses, tutored students in math and science classes, and volunteered for the Science Department at my school. I had one of the most pleasant moments of my life doing what I’ve always liked to do: helping others. However, there was one issue: I knew these were temporary positions; I knew I would someday have to say good-bye. From then on, I started searching for leadership opportunities that would allow me continue offering my services to my community. I consulted my guidance counselor to talk about clubs near my residence. She recommended that I visit the Y and speak to Abraham Palma, the coordinator of the Teen Program, to get information about the leadership program offered at that institution. Two days later, I went to Palma’s office to get information about clubs or programs I could join, to practice my leadership skills. He suddenly took me to the room where the leadership program was taking place and introduced me to its members. Once I was there, I became immersed in their discussion topic about college, and rapidly fell in love with the dynamics of this leadership program. Afterwards, I became highly involved and actively participated in discussions, led the team occasionally, brainstormed ideas for future community service events, and made unforgettable friendships.

What portions of the Teen Program did you take part of? Did you have a favorite?

I was part of the leadership coordinating committee, my favorite portion. I was in charge of planning discussion topics and brainstorming community service ideas, as well as recruiting high school students to join our team.

What do you feel that you learned from the Teen Program that helped you be successful or achieve something?

Since high school, I’ve been struggling with fears of public speaking. As a result, I missed out on many opportunities to get involved in marvelous leadership programs. I knew I was smart and pretty sociable, but I never dared to explore these programs; I thought I was going to fail just because I felt so insecure. Thanks to the Teen Program, I gained confidence and passion to help others. This program has taught me to be an eloquent and fearless role model for teenagers in promoting the importance of a college education.

Do you have any special stories from the Teen Program that you are fond of?

One day the leadership team program planned a game night for the elderly community at the Y, where every team member would bring a board game to play with the elders. I brought a Bingo, suddenly realizing how many elders became interested in playing with me. I absolutely loved to interact with them; I felt like an old man. Many of them treated me as a grandson, sharing with me the most beautiful smile that someone can ever see in this world.

What are you up to now in your life, and what do hope to do in the future?

I’m a college student at NYU pursuing a dual bachelor degree in Economics and Math. In addition, I work as a math tutor at a private elementary school in Harlem. I visualize myself as a successful entrepreneur and math instructor. I want to start a company of handmade scrapbooks, designed by kids around the world. In addition, I want to continue inspiring people to pursue an education.

We heard you attended the panel discussion at the Yeshiva University Wurzweiler School of Social Work of “Sosúa: Make a Better World”. How was that experience?

It was a huge honor to become a participant of this interesting conference and learn more from the stories that the panelists shared with all of us. Here are the pictures we took at this event.

Any advice for any other local teens looking to succeed?

Trust in yourself; there is nothing more powerful than setting your mind to believe that you are capable of doing anything you want to achieve in this world, regardless of your education level, social status, or culture. Don’t ever let your fears prevent you from doing the things you are passionate about. Dream high and I can guarantee you that you will find happiness within yourself.

About the Y
Established in 1917, the YM&YWHA of Washington Heights & Inwood (the Y) is Northern Manhattan’s premier Jewish community center — serving an ethnically and socio-economically diverse constituency — improving the quality of life for people of all ages through critical social services and innovative programs in health, wellness, education, and social justice, while promoting diversity and inclusion, and caring for those in need.

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