Northwestern College may not have a reputation as a hub of diversity, but assuming all of the students on campus are from small town Iowa or have a Dutch heritage would be quite incorrect.
Many students and staff at NW have very interesting and assorted stories to tell.
A walk through the RSC reveals the various national flags that decorate the main hallway. These flags represent where NW students are from, such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nepal or Canada.
One student with an remarkable story is Adam Ramirez, who is well known on campus by his Heemstra nickname of “Jarvis.” Even among the many stories of individuals who have migrated to the United States, Jarvis has a unique tale to tell.
He is a member of a rare group of U.S. citizens who can make an authentic claim to being a North American resident. Throughout his life he has lived in Mexico, the U.S. and Canada.
“I was born in Mexico City,” Ramirez said. “I moved to the United States for the first time when I was just a month old. All of my family is still in Mexico City, so we did a lot of travel and even moved back south for awhile.”
From the beginning of Ramirez’s story, he has gotten a lot of experience with different cultures. He attributes a lot of these experiences to his parents’ occupations and lifestyle.
“My dad is a musician and also went to school for business administration, and has been very active in ministry and the church,” Ramirez said. “My mom is also very involved with the church as a Sunday school teacher, and has been a school teacher for over 30 years. Immigration happened as my parents looked for different ways to use their gifts, not as a result of poverty or political and economic struggles.”
Both of Ramirez’s parents are Mexican, and are both college-educated professionals.
Ramirez gives credit to his parents’ background for this ability to move around freely, and also something that makes his experience different than the stereotypes many people have toward Mexican immigrants.
“My family lived in Jacksonville, Fla. until I was 2 years old, and then we returned to Mexico City,” Ramirez said. “After some time we moved to Canada, and it actually took me 16 years to move back into the United States, but we traveled back on at least an annual basis.”
Another factor that established the family’s U.S. connection were their ties to the Christian Reformed Church. They attended a lot of the events and conferences that took place in the U.S. It was also a factor when Ramirez began looking at colleges.
“I planned on either staying in Canada for college or going to school in the U.S.,” Ramirez said. “I lived very close to Redeemer University College in southern Ontario, which is a small Christian school. I was looking for a similar type of school, and my search for Christian schools in the Reformed Tradition led me to northwest Iowa, and I applied at Dordt and Northwestern.”
Ramirez ultimately chose to attend NW, and has called Orange City home since arriving over three years ago.
Looking back on his upbringing and experiences, Ramirez thinks that they have helped give him a beneficial perspective on things, including his past and future.
“Culture issues were never a big problem for me,” Ramirez said. “Being fluent in Spanish and English and having knowledge of both cultures allowed me to navigate between cultures smoothly.”
However, some of his experiences have motivated Ramirez to study aspects of immigration in the future.
“Moving from Canada back to Mexico in 2010 was tremendously influential for me,” Ramirez said. “I had never seen such examples of poverty and inequality. I went to a private middle class school for my last two years of high school, so seeing my peers making fun of those who were less wealthy than them was very hurtful, and I decided to challenge those ideas.”
Ramirez plans to pursue his mission of challenging injustice after his time at Northwestern. His current goal is to attend seminary next, hopefully Western Theological Seminary in Michigan.
Here he hopes to learn the skills to work with immigrant populations.
“I would like to work as a pastor for immigrant communities,” Ramirez said. “At my home church of Amistad (Cristiana, in Sioux Center) I have been given a chance to teach Sunday school. Ministry among immigrants is something that I really enjoy.”
Ultimately, Ramirez’s background of immigrating to the U.S. and Canada has impacted his future aspiration to serve in ministry.
“Being an immigrant child impacted me so much that I want a professional path that allows me to tie aspects of evangelism and social justice within immigrant communities, and mainly provides outreach to mainstream society,” Ramirez said. “As a bilingual immigrant I want to bridge the gaps between these groups and help make their stories visible.”