When Marcelo Ramirez, 21, encountered a student at his gym who was uncooperative he did not become impatient. Instead he took the time to speak with the student. Within the month, that same student became just as hardworking and respectful as Marcelo.
“That was the first time I had really seen my brother step up to the plate as a high rank. One day this kid is being rebellious and then he starting to want to workout with Marcelo, to become better with him,” said Patricia Ramirez, Marcelo’s sister.
When faced with adversity, most people become disheartened. For Marcelo, he looks his diversity in the eye and smiles.
Marcelo is one in 3.5 million people living with a form of Autism in the U.S. “Marcelo is autistic but that hasn’t limited him to accomplish the things he is passionate about,” says Shamus Hodnett, his teacher, mentor, and coworker. He is an active member in his community, school, and gym.
Marcelo is not just a student at Wall High School, he is also a volunteer at a local hospital where he spreads kindness to those who need it most. The Autism Society states that 35 percent of young adults (ages 19-23) with autism have not had a job or received postgraduate education after leaving high school. He works as part of a program to help socialize and develop skills necessary in the work environment. He does this to prepare himself for life after high school. Through this program he has logged over 1000 volunteering hours that help to keep the hospital running and allows for the medical team to perform their most crucial job, taking care of the patients.
His average day at the hospital is spent sorting and delivering mail to patients and doctors alike, collecting wheelchairs. This helps keep critical areas stocked and ready for easy transportation of patients. He does this while accompanied by a personal aide called a job coach. But it’s not just that Marcelo completes these tasks, it’s how he does them.
“Marcelo’s demeanor is infectious. He is a soft spoken, yet charismatic, caring soul. He brings joy to anyone he comes in contact with,” said Hodnett.
Marcelo brings smiles to the faces of everyone he encounters at the hospital and spreads his joy through his thoughtful actions.
As if his commitments to school and volunteering at the hospital weren’t enough, Marcelo also finds time to work and volunteer at his local Muay Thai gym, where he began as a student.
He worked under Hodnett for years as a way to stay active through one of his favorite sports but that love has developed into a passion, one that is being turned into a way to help others.
He is currently the highest level in Muay Thai, a black armband, and wants to use this to spread positivity and his love of the sport to other kids. Together, Hodnett and Marcelo “are working on creating a martial arts fitness class for children with special needs in which Marcelo is going to volunteer his time a few days a week to help instruct and be a role model for our young community members,” said Hodnett.
“We talked to him about it, about this class. It was weird trying to describe it to him but in the end, we explained ‘You’re helping kids like you’,” said Patricia.
“He was subjected to ridicule as a younger student, developed health issues, but through his dedication to bettering himself every day, hard work, and dedication he has achieved plenty, shared some incredible moments with others, and brightened up so many individual lives,” said Hodnett. The compassion that Marcelo spreads to everyone that he encounters is infections and has even left his co-workers citing him as inspiration for “wanting to be a better person.”
It has been a journey for Marcelo and it hasn’t always been easy. He wasn’t always as patient as he is now, but with everything Marcelo learns.
When asked how he maintains such a positive attitude Marcelo says, “Being happy. I’m alive so I’m always being happy. [Not] sad, not angry, just always wanting to help.”
Marcelo has overcome many hardships, but he always takes on life with a caring and kind attitude, rolls with the punches, and of course does it all with a smile on his face.