Beloved Walla Walla High School specialist receives inaugural RISE award

Beloved Walla Walla High School specialist receives inaugural RISE award
Image credit: Walla Walla public schools

WALLA WALLA, Wash. — In his role as Intervention Specialist at Walla Walla High School (Wa-Hi), Melito Ramirez wears many hats. An outstanding member of the school community, Ramirez has been recognized with multiple honors in Washington state, but now, he’s become the United States’ first ‘Recognizing Inspiring School Employees (RISE)’ Awardee.

U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona announced the selection on Tuesday in a release on the U.S. Department of Education’s website. Established by the U.S. Congress in 2019, the RISE Award is meant to recognize a school faculty member that goes above and beyond to contribute to K-12 education.

In over 40 years across various roles, Ramirez has worked for multiple school districts as a migrant home visitor, summer school coordinator, special education secretary and bus driver. As Wa-Hi’s Intervention Specialist, Ramirez conducts home visits to put students in a position to fulfill their potential.

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Ramirez works with many Spanish-speaking families to ensure students aren’t put at a disadvantage. He provides technological and mental health resources needed for students who speak English as a Second Language to receive the best possible education.

He’s also credited with easing gang tension in the Walla Walla community in the 1990s by creating supervised activities on weekends and evenings to give students an opportunity to excel.

“I’m pleased to recognize Mr. Ramirez as a most deserving employee who has demonstrated courage and creativity every day over decades of service as he inspires students in Washington State,” Cardona said. “Education support professionals’ work too often goes unrecognized. However, especially in this pandemic year, they have made some of the most extraordinary contributions to keep our communities safe and support our students and schools. I’m honored to recognize them for the heroes that they are.”

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Ramirez was selected out of 32 school employees nominated across 20 states by Governor’s offices. The criteria that government leaders are asked to consider are as follows:

  • (A) Work performance;
  • (B) School and community involvement;
  • (C) Leadership and commitment;
  • (D) Local support (from co-workers, school administrators, community members, etc., who speak to the nominee’s exemplary work); and
  • (E) Enhancement of classified school employees’ image in the community and schools.

Chris Reykdal, Washington state’s superintendent, is proud to see Ramirez honored for his hard work and dedication to the Walla Walla community and Washington state education overall.

“For his entire career, Mr. Ramirez has gone above and beyond for his students, their families, and his community as a whole,” Reykdal said. “Mr. Ramirez shows us that a high-quality K-12 education isn’t limited to the walls of a classroom or the daily bell schedule. He has dedicated his career to empowering his students to pursue their dreams, and I am very proud to honor him in this way.”

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