Valley Catholic School photos
Maria Ramirez speaks to peers about having MS.
Valley Catholic School photos
Maria Ramirez speaks to peers about having MS.
BEAVERTON — Maria Ramirez, a Valley Catholic senior nearing graduation and whose excellent academic record has already secured her acceptance into college, got up to speak to a gym full of students about her experience with multiple sclerosis, a disease that affects the central nervous system and mental function. The assembly was held to raise awareness of last month's Portland MS Walk and other walks around the country.  

Ramirez kept her poise throughout the assembly while speaking to students, who wore orange bracelets from the National MS Society in a show of support for her willingness to speak, and to honor efforts made to find a cure. Ramirez said her presentation was the first time she had shared something so personal with that many people.

“It was scary,” she said of speaking about her experience with MS. “I had never spoken to such a large crowd before.”

She had been diagnosed with encephalitis, until she was admitted to the hospital in October 2007 and doctors determined it was MS. After her father once had to rush her to the emergency room, she said her first concern was an upcoming exam and her practice SATs.

“I was freaking out, crying, because I wanted to make the practice SATs…I had been working so hard to earn a 4.0 GPA all year, and I didn’t want to miss anything,” Ramirez said. “It really gives you perspective, though, and reminds you that health has to come first.”

Oregon State University has accepted Ramirez should she elect to attend this fall and study engineering. Her interest is in transportation, particularly trains and airplanes. She may also attend Purdue, though she said that relocating to Indiana where she would not know anyone nor have a trusted neurologist nearby may lead her to Corvallis instead. Her current neurologist has already placed her in contact with a colleague near the OSU campus, she added.

In addition to excelling as a student, Ramirez is involved with the MS support community. She has worked with the MS Society of Canada at summer camps for several years and was asked to work as a blogger on their upcoming project, a website called Someone Like Me ( that links teens who are diagnosed with one another for support and to ask and answer questions.

Ramirez said there were just a few chat rooms available when she was diagnosed, and she wants to expand the help available to youths who are diagnosed so they don’t feel alone.

“It’s more prevalent than people realize sometimes, and just because they can’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not there,” Ramirez said. “But MS is no reason to give up.”

Ramirez also won an honorable mention in the Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility’s Greenfield Peace Writing Contest. Her piece was a science fiction essay about living over 800 years in the future, and is in response to the contest’s question: “What do we need to change to create a world without nuclear weapons?”

Here is an excerpt from her futuristic essay: "The ideas and pictures of a green Oregon are simply dreams in remembrance of what it once was. The 'GO GREEN' slogan now appears in the book of world renowned quotes and famous sayings right before 'Sunny California.' I live in the region which was once known as New York; it might have been known as 'the city that never sleeps'; however, these days, all there is to do is sleep. The skies are completely grey giving the city a rather depressed and downtrodden look. Waking up to this sight every morning makes it impossible to be motivated, and inspired to live a fulfilling life. I am not sure if the government's mind was covered in darkness and the thought of control, or maybe they weren't even thinking at all; but their nuclear missiles have ruined everything."

The Valley Catholic graduation ceremony is set for 2 p.m. in the Valiants’ Gym on Saturday, June 4. Valedictorians are Megan Peekema, Veronika Kiss and Lisa Wilson.

Here are the graduates: Andrew Afranji, David Barry, Alex Byers, Rosita Castillo, Cesar Catibayan, Rothanak Chan, Hyowon Chang, Derek Chen, Jami Cheng, Janice Chung, Nathan Cramer, Justin Dale, Gloria Davis, John Deeney, Steven Douglass, Matthew Folino, Ryan Foote, Brandon Gallinat, Rojman Ghomghaleh, Erin Gibbs, Andrew Gram, Melissa Haines, Ryan Haj, Jeong Eun Han, Lindsay Harmon, Annaliese Harris, Jiayi Hou, Elliott Jackson, Anna Jesse, Colleen Johnson, Samantha Kemper, Ayesha Khader, Elizabeth Kiefer, Young-eun (Olivia) Kim, Veronika Kiss, Jared Larson, Daniel Lin, Namitha Lukose, Austin Lundin, Nicholas McDevitt, Evangel McVicker, Daniel Melancon, Kindra Mills, Hannah Moraes, Sean O'Brien, Daniel Or, Annaliza Oswald, Davis Parsons, Megan Peekema, Alexandra Pierce, Sean Pinzon, Kelsey Pruett, Colin Pulicella, Charles Purdy, Adam Quandt, Marcela Ramirez, Maria Ramirez, Holden Richards, Alexander Roedl, Breanne Sebert, Injun Seh, Sara Seiwald, Zeke Seminario, Jeong-eun (Grace) Shin, Alyssa Sleva, Holly Smith, Tessa Taylor, Huyen Tran, Vivian Tran, Hieu Trieu, Karishma Veeramoney, Kathryn Vincent, Jett Vining, Brennen Vistica, Amy Vuylsteke, Nicole Weinbender, Lisa Wilson, Hana Wright, Naeun Yeon