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High school senior makes up for lost time to pass math hurdle

by Merrie Leininger, Staff writer

The math proficiency test has been a stumbling block for many Nevada high school students since it was implemented as a graduation requirement.

It was a hurdle Yuri Ramirez had tried, and failed, to leap many times. But with the help of many Douglas High School teachers and his mother, Yuri finally passed the test on his sixth try, and will be walking to get his diploma with the rest of his class on Friday.

Yuri, 18, said he had some trouble in other areas before the proficiency test was even on his mind.

“When I was younger, some family problems caused me to have a bad attitude. I kind of slacked off. I slacked off so bad, that once I hit my sophomore year, I realized my mistake,” he said.

But, at that point, Yuri’s life took another turn. His father, Albert Ramirez, who had been divorced from his mother Susan, since Yuri was 8 years old, died of an aneurism.

“It really threw me for a loop. I held a lot of it in and acted like nothing happened for a while. I figured out I was still getting over it and couldn’t carry on like that. Once I got over the anger of it, I had to move on from there,” he said.

From there, Yuri, who attends the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, threw himself into his schoolwork. He continued taking night school courses that he started his freshman year. Junior year is where he made a serious mistake, however.

“The previous year I had taken applied math with Ms. (Jill) Alley and I knew about the proficiency test, but I heard it was easy and didn’t take a math class junior year. So I had a hole there. What I didn’t think about was everyone who said it was easy had taken integrated math,” Yuri said.

He took the test the first time and passed the reading and writing portions, but failed the math test. In fact, he did poorly, scoring only a 44 percent. At that point, students had to earn a 64 percent in order to pass.

“I was mad and felt like I was stupid. I took it four other times after that. On the fifth try, I got a 63 percent, so I was flustered. Thankfully, my family taught me how to hang in there and don’t give up on yourself,” he said.

Yuri credits his family with a lot. He says his mom and his sisters Dixie, 23, and Alexa, 8, have always been there for him.

“I had a family that supported me. Some kids have parents who could care less, but my mom supported me and stayed with me all this time,” he said.

Math teachers Jim Mathews, Ron Mogab and Jill Alley also helped Yuri before school, during school and after school with math programs aimed specifically at helping him pass the proficiency test.

Each class was a stepping stone, Yuri said, but it was Mathews and the Plato computer software that put him over the top.

“I was really worried. I thought, ‘If I don’t pass, I don’t know what I’m going to do. I’m supposed to go to college in the fall.’ I was really nervous,” he said.

It was English teacher Michael Schneider who told him he passed.

“That day, Mr. Schneider walked into the room and signaled me to come over. He said, ‘You did it, buddy.’ and I just shouted through the whole school. I walked down there to the counseling office and shook hands and hugged everybody,” Yuri said. “Now I know I can walk with my class. It also got me prepared for the future so if I have a test or something I need to do, it taught me not to put things off, not to take things for granted.”

Not only did Yuri pass, he earned an 83 percent. And he knows he will be able to go to Wyoming Technical Institute to study automotive repair. Yuri said he hopes to be able to graduate and have a job repairing diesel trucks within nine months.

“I’m glad I’m getting out of high school because I can move on and make a future for myself,” he said. “It was the teachers and counselors that supported me. I thank them greatly for helping me.”