One Voice had a chance to talk with one of our influential young leaders about diversity and the importance of acceptance through his creation of his Multicultural Tolerance program. It is becoming more common for youth to take the lead on the issues that directly affect them and Gabe Ramos is a great example of that.
One Voice: Can you tell us a little more about your experience at the National PTA Convention?
Gabe: It was something like I have never experienced. It was my first time in Texas and by far the biggest convention I had ever been to. The convention was both enlightening and fun. I particularly enjoyed meeting the other youth leaders and having the youth oriented workshops. I appreciated James T. Robilotta, youth leadership keynote, for his great presence and education on youth leadership. He really taught us as youth leaders to identify what types of leaders we are and how to utilize our talents. Also, I loved the keynote, Dr. Steve Contstantino, who spoke about family engagement, something that I thoroughly find to be of the utmost importance. As a youth, I know I will always have my family to support me and help me succeed. While I was there, I found at one of the booths a math program called Crazy 8’s Math by Bedtime Math, which I now run as a club for fifth graders in my district. I made many friends that I still keep in touch with, and made memories I will never forget.
One Voice: How did you get involved as a Youth Summit Leader?
Gabe: I was at the Pennsylvania State PTA convention and several PTA officers recommended I apply for a scholarship for the convention, so I did.
One Voice: You mentioned that you learned many skills at the Convention. Can you talk about what workshop you attended? What were those skills?
Gabe: I attended an anti-bullying program presented by BMX star, Mr. Kevin “K Rob” Robinson which was truly enlightening and self-reassuring. His program truly just made you feel good, and I absolutely loved the way he tied his BMX skills into it. I attended a seminar on how to utilize your PTA, which helped me get my program on its feet. I used the skills I attained to present my program to my PTA and they supported it. I attended another workshop on communication, and I learned communication is a precise art, and most especially a two-way street.
One Voice: What inspired you to create “Multicultural Tolerance?” Were your classmates a big influence?
Gabe: From a very young age, I have been subjected to racial slurs and I never knew what to do about it. Of course when you are 7 years old and you are called a spic, there isn’t much you can do. Frankly, I didn’t even know what a spic was until I asked my mother. This last year, in Spanish class of all places, I was the subject of many racial jokes about my Dominican heritage, most of which were actually meant to be hurtful towards the Mexican population. I received slurs such as, “corn picker,” and was asked, “When are you going to come in with tacos and your sombrero?” There were many slurs aimed towards my father as well. These kids in my class were malicious and inconsiderate because they didn’t realize that they just didn’t make fun of me, they made fun of my father and his father; men who had to work for everything they owned. One day my close friends decided to scratch corn picker onto my tray at lunch and throw my lunch all over the table, they, I know, had no malicious intent (he was just trying to be funny in front of other kids) but their naivety got the best of them and they thought it was a funny joke. This last occurrence gave me an incentive to create this program. I guess you can say my classmates were a big influence.
One Voice: Tell us about your documentary. What was the message? Where do you see your “Multicultural Tolerance” program going in the upcoming school years?
Gabe: Well I don’t want to give anything away about the men of the documentary, but they all are great, loving gentlemen. I will tell you, however, that four out of the five men are physicians and out of them, three of their origins are not of the U.S. The fifth man is a police officer and entrepreneur who is part of a minority in the U.S. The men by name are Dr. Besher Kabak, Pulmonary Critical Care, who is from Syria; Dr. Abdalla Sholi, Hematology/Oncology, who is from Jordan; Dr. Julio Ramos, Rheumatology, from the U.S. of Dominican descent; Dr. Samir Pancholy, Cardiology, who is from India; and Officer John Burgette, from the U.S., born in Germany and is of African-American descent. The message of the documentary is tolerance for all people, and what racism and intolerance truly does to oneself by a medium of people who have experienced racism themselves. All in all, the documentary was to educate and prove—prove that we all are different but that difference should be accepted and embraced. All of these individuals are colleagues and friends of my father, who was also an interviewee, so I reached out to them through him.
Right now I am only pursuing this program through the PTA. I hope to present “Multicultural Tolerance” to my local school district, and get it to play on public access television. I would love to mentor peers if the opportunity arose; I want to create a peer support group for students experiencing intolerance in their lives.