Joe Ramirez grew up on the southwest side of Chicago, the son of a homemaker and the supervisor of a scrap metal yard.

His Dad valued hard work. His Mom valued education.“The minute I got home from school, before I took off my coat, my Mom would say, ‘Do your homework.’”

But when Joe was 10, his Mom died, and it was then, he says, that he internalized her voice to do well in school.

“I knew I had to excel,” says Ramirez, adding that an aunt, his only relative to go to college, encouraged him to apply to St. Ignatius High School, a college preparatory school in Chicago, where for four years he earned straight A’s.

“Getting into MIT was one of the best things that has ever happened to me,” says Ramirez, a sophomore double majoring in electrical engineering and computer science and management. “Someday, I’d love to start a company that will benefit the medical and biological fields,” he says. “I hope to be part of a team that will make life better for people. I want to help others, because I’ve been helped so much.

“I feel I owe it to the man who gave me this scholarship to be a success in life. I would never want to disappoint him. Without his gift, I’d be at a community college in Chicago. I know I would.

“Instead, I’m getting an amazing education. And I’m making amazing friends. When my Mom died, it was tough for me to get close to people, but now I’m making true friends I will keep for the rest of my life.

“MIT is changing me. It already has. Receiving a scholarship is one of the greatest things that anybody has ever done for me.”