Liz Ramirez watches out for her little sister, who is developmentally disabled. As a young woman, Liz made it a point to check out the different schools her sister attended. But nothing ever really clicked until EL ARCA, where Liz saw her sibling blossom under the caring and watchful eyes of its staff.
Determined to find a way to be a part of her sister’s life on a daily basis, Liz became a Certified Nurse Educator with EL ARCA’s Adult Development Center, teaching program participants independent living skills such as reading, math and problem-solving. And for the past 13 years, she has been able to spend time with her sister every day.
“If she needs something, she knows I’m there,” Liz says. As do all the program participants at EL ARCA, whom Liz has come to regard as family.
“The students make your day,” Liz explains. “You may have problems at home, and then you come to EL ARCA, and they make you forget your troubles. They make you laugh. Listening to their conversations, seeing their actions – it’s a joy to be around them.”
Liz passes on her love of helping others to her children. Her 19-year-old son takes photos at EL ARCA holiday events, and her 9-year-old pitches in wherever he is needed.
“I like them to volunteer because in the outside world, there are a lot of people that don’t interact with the developmentally disabled,” Liz explains. “They look at them with fear, and there’s not a lot of information, and I don’t like that. I want my kids to know that we’re not all the same. I want my kids to know that you need to help people with disabilities.”
Her oldest son has expressed interest in becoming a CNA – just like his mother. Liz hopes that he will find happiness in his work the way that she has.
“The program participants are happy people, too,” she says. “And they transmit that happiness to you.”
- Liz Ramirez