Mary Ann Ramirez: Seizing Opportunities
May 17, 2018
By Andrea Lopez-Villafaña
A poster of Mexican artists Simon Silva’s “Un Dia de Campo,” or a day in the fields, hangs in Mary Ann Ramirez’s downtown office.
Ramirez, a court operations supervisor and San Diego Superior Court’s language access representative, shares she first saw the image during a late night study session in college.
The image, which depicts a small family working in what seems like endless rows of farm fields under an orange sun, stood out to Ramirez because it gave her a sense of pride for her culture and the labor of hard working individuals.
Ramirez, who has been with the San Diego Superior Court for 20 years and a supervisor for 12 years, is no stranger to hard work. She currently supervises the interpreters at the central court in downtown, the traffic court in Kearny Mesa and the juvenile court.
Two years ago, she was named the Court’s Language Access Representative following a push to focus on expanding language services throughout California.
According to Ramirez, in spring of 2017 the court expanded their language access services for all cases because prior to that a party would need to hire an interpreter if it was not a case that the court assigned a free interpreter for.
“I’m very proud of our work and I’m very proud of the work that we’ve done to be able to provide assistance,” Ramirez said. “When people come to the court a part of our customer service is that everyone is treated fairly and so now having the ability to provide bilingual staff or interpreters or telephone interpreter services for the court’s customers is a huge step in providing equal justice for everyone.”
Although her path was not easy, Ramirez’s passion for learning has allowed her to seize different opportunities.
Originally from Corpus Christi, Texas, Ramirez was the oldest of five children. Her father worked two jobs and worked for 37 years as civilian personnel with the United States Navy, which allowed her mother to stayed home and raised the children.
“He was such a hard worker, in 37 years my dad never called in sick, I mean talk about a work ethic,” Ramirez said.
Ramirez recalls growing up barefooted and always playing outside with her siblings. She grew up in parochial school and in middle school she was introduced for the first time to public school.
At the age of 14, Ramirez became pregnant with her first child and had to quit going to school. Then at the age of 18 she got married and had three more children.
The young mom worked at a printing company but she did not have a high school diploma – which was required – so she began to take classes at night and earned her GED.
When her family relocated to San Diego 21 years ago, Ramirez looked for employment opportunities at local stores, and at the persistence of someone she knew, she applied to the San Diego Superior Court.
To Ramirez’s surprise, she was hired as a deputy clerk 1 and began to see the growth and career opportunities that were available within the court, especially when it came to learning new skills.
Although she was raised in an area where the community was predominantly Hispanic, Ramirez was not entirely bilingual so at the age of 40, she decided to go to college.
Ramirez graduated with honors from Southwestern College and then transferred to San Diego State University, where she earned a degree in public administration in 2007.
She recalls that going back to school was a great experience, however, it was not easy because she was working full-time with the court and she had to stay up at night doing homework. However, having her faith and family on her side were big motivators, she said.
“Being able to graduate and walk across the stage with children and grandchildren watching, being able to be that role model for them was quite an experience,” Ramirez said.
She then earned a master’s certification in the judicial administration program from California State University, Sacramento.
Ramirez has plans to continue going to school, become certified to teach, and search for promotion opportunities within the court.
“I want to show others that it can be done, and you can’t ever let your age get in the way, thinking that you’re too old or even too young, you can’t let that stop you,” Ramirez said.