Pine-Richland psychologist nominated for award
Melissa Ramirez is passionate about her work with students in the Pine-Richland School District.
As one of the district's two school psychologists, she spends most of her day in school buildings observing, listening and helping students with special needs overcome challenges.
“Being with kids to me is the most important aspect of the job,” Ramirez said. “I can't do what I do and have the knowledge base without knowing the kids. That's my passion.”
It's this spirit that earned Ramirez, 35, of Zelienople, a nomination for Fund It Forward's Making a Daily Difference Award, given to a community professional who has changed the lives of children with special needs and their families.
Professionals are nominated by a person or group in the community, but, Ramirez said, she doesn't know who chose her for this honor.
She found out about the nomination earlier this month via an email from Fund It Forward's board of directors.
“I was shocked actually, wondering who is out there thinking of me,” Ramirez said. “Then I was excited. This is a great opportunity. It just feels really good to have someone appreciate what you do.”
Ramirez is up against three other nominees for the Making a Daily Difference Award. People can vote online for Ramirez once a day through Sept. 19 at http://gala.funditfwd.org.
Fund It Forward is a nonprofit organization based in Pine that purchases adaptive equipment for children with special needs.
The winner and other nominees will be recognized at Fund It Forward's annual gala on Nov. 15 at the Duquesne Club in Pittsburgh.
The nomination letter, written by the anonymous sender, touts Ramirez's selfless dedication to the children.
“Dr. Ramirez does not hesitate to put the needs of others before her own work and will help assist in any way she can. Her dedication to families is immense. She is able to provide a wealth of knowledge on various disabilities, strategies to assist students in and outside the classroom, and on the paperwork process for special education,” reads the nomination letter, posted on Fund It Forward's website.
All the tedious and sometimes confusing paperwork involved with special education can be overwhelming to families, Ramirez said, which is why she uses her expertise to use terms and language people understand.
“I'm able to bring the hefty paperwork down to a place of comfort and understanding,” she said. “I think that's what the families appreciate. I'm telling them from the heart what I believe and what's best.”
Ramirez has been a school psychologist for the district since 2008. She completed undergraduate studies in psychology and biology at the University of Pittsburgh and got her master's degree and doctorate in school psychology from Duquesne University.
She found her calling in school psychology during her junior year of college. While working with various agencies for an abnormal-psychology class, she got to work directly with students for the first time.
“I saw the impact I could have with somebody, and from that moment, I started working in the field,” Ramirez said. “I love what I do. This is absolutely my passion. I'm lucky to be living every day doing what I do.”
Rachel Farkas is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-779-6902 or firstname.lastname@example.org.