Meet Nikki Ramos

Meet Nikki Ramos, a thirty-eight-year-old legal studies major at Mount Wachusett Community College. Nikki started her higher education journey in 2021 with a full course load, but before the beginning of her first semester she was diagnosed with Central Nervous System Lupus (CNS). CNS can cause confusion and trouble concentrating, sudden unusual movements and behaviors including seizures, inflammation of the spine, and stroke.

With the diagnosis Nikki began to lose vision and experienced several other health complications that created many challenges for the student-parent. Most people in her situation would have called it quits and dropped out of all their classes. Nikki Ramos is not most people.

She was determined to succeed even when life got challenging. When speaking about the struggles she faced during the time of her diagnosis Nikki says, “I wish I could say that I just put on a positive attitude and was like “I can do this” but to be real about it; I shed a lot of tears and was very angry and upset.”

Nikki visited her counselor weekly to help cope with the stresses she was under. It was essential for her to have someone she could talk to and express everything that was happening to her. “It was the one place where I could let my guard down and it was okay to be upset about it, it was okay to struggle with it,” says Ramos.

Nikki became her own best advocate and took advantage of every resource available to her. She is a Department of Developmental Services (DDS) client, and she reached out to her DDS Coordinator who connected her with Easterseals Massachusetts, a company that provides services to ensure children and adults with disabilities get equal opportunities to learn. “When I originally started school, I only had an older laptop with a fourteen-inch screen. I didn’t have any assistive technology, so life was hard for me. I am a very independent person and not being able to see really robbed me of that independence for a long time,” said Ramos.

With the help of Easterseals; Nikki was able to gain access to a laptop with a bigger screen, an external monitor, Amazon Alexa devices, an Apple iPhone and iPad, and an OrCam. The OrCam is a device that attaches to her glasses and can recognize faces, money, bar codes, etc. Nikki says “All of that gave me my freedom back. To be able to go out and do things by myself, to go to school by myself, to be independent in doing my schoolwork.”

Additionally, Ramos used the resources offered at MWCC to help herself succeed in any way possible. She visited the Visions Program, Learning Success Center, and Disabilities Services. “I can tell you right now, I would not be as good of a student as I am if I did not have disabilities services supporting me. I was always a good student, but they have really helped me to excel, and I have managed to maintain a 4.0 GPA the entire time I have been at MWCC,” said Ramos.

Nikki is involved in several campus clubs, as the Treasurer of the Student Government Association and the President of Delta Alpha Pi an honor society founded to recognize students with disabilities for their academic achievements and leadership skills.  She has also been involved in the SAGA (Sexuality & Gener Alliance) club and published in the Mount Observer student newspaper. Her biggest tip for balancing it all is to learn good time management skills. “Time management is the most important thing. I really like a ridgid schedule, so I basically live out of a planner” says Ramos.

Outside of school Nikki’s husband and son have been two of her greatest supporters throughout her time at MWCC. To reduce burnout during the school year, Ramos says “I take one day a week where I just spend the entire day with family. I do not talk about school, I do not do schoolwork, my sole focus is just on my family. It is the one day of the week that I really look forward to. It is like a recharge for me.”

Throughout her journey at MWCC Nikki has learned not to overload her plate. “I will say being a legal studies major is very demanding when it comes to homework and reading. When I was a full-time student, I realized that I had no time for anything else. I was working seven days a week and I could not keep up with everything.” Nikki opted to take summer courses and reduce her courseload during the fall to achieve a more manageable schedule. “I had to keep in mind that no matter how many classes I took it did not matter as long as I got to the finish line in the end” says Ramos.

Nikki will one day soon walk across the stage at graduation. In five years, she would like to graduate with a bachelor’s in criminal justice and would love to teach or be a faculty or staff member at MWCC. “As a student I see how wonderful a place it is, and I would love to be a part of the community in that respect” says Nikki. She encourages students to never give up and keep trying. She says, “Even if you do not succeed at first try and try and try. It is not always going to be easy; it is not always going to be fun but just keep going. It is completely worth it. I could not see the finish line even halfway through, but I am almost there.”