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Alex Ramon grew up like many Midwestern kids, dreaming of fame and glory as they took to the streets after school for the latest game of basketball or football with their friends. Summertime games featured small tournaments with his brothers and cousins, with the obligatory trip to the local store for snacks to fuel the day-long events.
“As a kid playing sports with neighbors, we used to shut down the whole block playing football, basketball.”
That competitive nature has always been a part of Alex. Born and raised in Little Village to parents who immigrated from Mexico, he credits his mother for instilling a dogged work ethic and a tendency toward a modest interpretation, if not a complete underselling of his impact on his neighbors and his community.
His low-key approach is born out of a lifetime’s worth of lessons he’s had to learn in his 20 years.
After his father passed away when he was a child, he found an invaluable mentor in his friend and neighbor, Matt DeMateo, the executive director of New Life Centers, the community services center where Alex coordinates operations in the food pantry.
“Without the way he sees me, I would not be here,” Alex reflected.
He means it literally.
It was the summer of 2017 when Alex nearly became a statistic, simply minding his own business when he was caught in the leg by a bullet not meant for him, a byproduct of gang crossfire.
Understandably, it was a life-changing experience.
“Having people in the community that uplift one another is important,” quipped Alex.
It’s that line of thinking that’s changed his approach to life and his community, using his platform at Pan de Vida to make the personal connections that earn trust and encourage cooperation.
“I can walk up to anyone on the street and have a conversation,” Alex said of his ability to connect with Pan de Vida patrons. “We’re not just there for the food, we’re there for the connection and connecting their families to resources.”
Resources that are desperately needed in an area where the per capita income is a little more $14,000, with more than a third of the population living without any form of health insurance - a rate nearly three times the city of Chicago average.
Alex has made it his mission to be one who uplifts and he’s working to share the inspiration he’s found through his mentors and his non-profit work to those he connects with on a daily basis.
“I want to give back by showing the youth and showing my neighbors that it’s possible to uplift one another and to advance in life, even though we all have struggles,” said Alex about his ability to share his personal testimony with his neighbors.
“We can overcome those struggles, little by little and we can all see the light at the end of the tunnel. Eventually, we’ll see the full light at the end.”
To accomplish his mission, he knows that he also has to invest in himself. Alex credits DeMateo for the motivation to pursue higher heights and his CLF cohort for opening his eyes to the creative avenues available to do work for his community.
“I feel energized every time I walk into the room,” he said about the CLF training sessions, training sessions that help him grow personally and professionally. Grassroots community leaders from across the Westside, corporate and civic leaders have shared experiences in those sessions that have resonated with Alex and have helped him expand his toolbox.
The most important lesson for him: ensure you're up to the task when you want to change your environment.
“You cannot pour from an empty cup.”
Alex Ramon CLF ‘23 is Operations Coordinator, New Life Centers. Hear more about his mission to feed all of Little Village.