Calumet College of Saint Joseph’s Dino Ramirez Knows that Hard Work, Effort, and a Positive Attitude Can Lead to Great Things

Calumet College of Saint Joseph’s Dino Ramirez Knows that Hard Work, Effort, and a Positive Attitude Can Lead to Great Things

Dino Ramirez is a champion. Every day, he leads students through the difficult processes of job hunting, resume building, and career planning at Calumet College of St. Joseph. He is also a champion athlete, as a part of the 2017 Team USA Wheelchair Softball Team that won the 2017 International Wheelchair Softball Championship. With a strong work-ethic and a cavalier attitude, Ramirez hopes that he and the rest of his CCSJ family can bring something special to their students.

Born and raised in East Chicago, Ramirez comes from a line of steel mill workers. Both his dad and his grandfather worked in the local mills. He made it a goal to get out of the city, tired of the gangs and other trouble going on around him. Then he hit a bit of a speed bump, an accident that ultimately led to leg amputation.

“When I was 15, I got into an ATV accident,” explained Ramirez. “I had a lot of injuries to my leg. Eventually, when I was 18, they had to amputate my leg. It caused a lot of problems when I was growing up and kind of slowed me down from doing things.”

At that point, it was certain that he wouldn’t follow his father’s footsteps into the mills. What came next was a little less certain, but he knew that he had to change his strategy to compensate for his circumstances.

“I went onto college immediately after graduating,” said Ramirez. “I told my dad, ‘What am I going to do? I can’t work in the mills, I have one bad leg.’ I realized that I’ve got to use my brain now. So then I tried to go to school, and I did the whole Northwest Indiana tour at the time: IUN, Purdue Cal, Ivy Tech. But I wasn’t successful in completing anything, so I went into the working world.”

He had a child, and then settled into retail work for some time. It went well, and he worked his way up to Assistant Manager at a local Walgreens. Eventually, his leg injury gave him an opportunity. He played a variety of wheelchair sports, and eventually met someone who owned a medical supply company. He started as a salesperson, but one thing led to another and he secured a spot as a manager at larger company.

“I was making really good money with no degree,” said Ramirez. “But when the financial market crash happened in 2008, it affected my company and they went under. I no longer had a position and I didn’t have a degree, so regardless of what good skills I had I couldn’t get past the interview process. I got frustrated that despite all these skills that I’d worked on and built up, I couldn’t get me past the paper process.”

So Ramirez stayed in limbo for a time. A smart and talented man, accomplished athlete, he could not stay like that long. His frustration and an enlightening conversation with his son led him to realize something, he needed to go back to school.

“It was my son that actually drove me back to school,” he explained. “I was driving him around saying do this, do that, go to college. And my son looked at me, at 5 years-old, and said ‘Dad, do you have a degree?’ And I said no, and I felt like such a hypocrite preaching to him about going to school. I wasn’t doing what I said, and that I needed to lead by example.”

That conversation ultimately led him to where he is now - Calumet College of St. Joseph - first as a student, where he earned both his undergraduate and Master’s Degrees. He’s been there as a student and employee since 2010, first working in admissions, and now as the Career Services Coordinator. He fell in love with the school and its staff, thinking of it like a family. He knew that he had to make a career there.

“I hunted everybody down,” joked Ramirez. “I made it well known to everyone that I wanted to be there. I told them they didn’t have to come find me, I was going to find my way in there and make myself a position. And that’s exactly what I did, I knew what I wanted and made it happen.”

And that’s what he hopes he can leave students with. Effort, guidance, and a positive attitude can lead to great things. It’s just a matter of carving a space out for yourself, like he’s done.

“I love telling my story because you get to know who people are from what they went through,” he said. “At our school, we educate of a lot of the Chicago Police Department. So I get a lot of adults, and they say, ‘I have this and I have that, I don’t know if I can do school.’ And I tell them, listen, when I came back to school at 32, I had 3 kids, 2 jobs, and 1 leg. If I could do it, you can do it.”