Erika Diaz Ramirez

Sonoma State Sophomore Builds her Own Path of Success

Monica Alarcon


Erika Diaz Ramirez

​Erika Diaz Ramirez at the Rose Gardens in Stockton, near the Haggin Museum. 



Erika Diaz Ramirez immigrated from Michoacan, Mexico, to the United States at the age of four with her parents, Juana and Jose de Jesus, and her siblings, Jose De Jesus, Ana Karen, and Miguel. They wanted to forge a new life and future with greater opportunities as a family.

Today, Erika is forging her path by investing in her education and attending a 4-year university. She plans to become the first college graduate in her family. Erika is currently a sophomore at Sonoma State University, majoring in Computer Science. She draws motivation and inspiration from her family's courage, grit, and perseverance.

Taking a leap of faith… Leaving their home country was not an easy decision. They love everything about their culture, traditions, and people. Yet, staying was not an option for her parents. It was an easy choice to leave Mexico for there were few educational opportunities there. When they arrived in America, it felt like a part of their dreams for the future had been accomplished.

Challenges… Erika and her family experienced many hardships upon arriving in America including language and cultural barriers to overcome. In addition, Erika and her siblings did not qualify for DACA status because they missed the approval status by one month from their arrival. This created a great burden for the family. In addition, her parents began to feel the financial pressures of living in America and how difficult it was to earn a decent wage.

Nevertheless, her parents persevered and took whatever jobs they could find to support the family. Her mom became a vineyard farm worker, and her father was a meat butcher. Growing up, Erika did not have much. While they lived modestly, she was always grateful to live in America regardless of the poverty around her. She remembers stories her mother used to tell her about her childhood. Her mother was forced to sell candy at the age of four to help support her family. Listening to her mother's childhood stories made Erika sad about the financial responsibilities her mother carried at such a young age. These stories made her realize the blessings from living in America even though they came with great sacrifices. Her parents had to work long hours to provide for Erika and her siblings, so they did not have much family time. Erika often cared for her siblings while her parents worked. In addition, life in America became more challenging when her parents separated due to unfortunate circumstances. Her father had to return to Mexico, and her mother suddenly had to care for her children independently. Unfortunately, Erika's challenges extended to her college life. Her most significant challenge in college was and continues to be housing. Making the minimum income needed for subsistence and rent has always been a worry and burden for her.

Counting her blessings… Despite these challenges, she feels blessed to live in America because of the educational opportunities she has. The sacrifices that Erika's parents made allowed her to receive an education and the freedoms not available in Mexico. She is blessed to attend Sonoma State University and does not take her admissions as a student there for granted. She knows that if circumstances were different, she might not have had the opportunity to attend college. Erika remembers when her older sister attended Stanislaus State University for one year but had to quit because she could not afford the tuition or receive financial assistance. It was heartbreaking for her sister and depressing for Erika to witness. Her sister's unfortunate situation motivated her to always work hard in her studies and academic life to succeed. Today, Erika has obtained an employment permit which has allowed her to support herself financially and her educational expenses to stay in school. Although working and going to school can have its challenges, she does not let this hardship deter her academic aspirations. She stays focused and motivated on her present and future goals.

Building a new life… Erika is creating an exciting future for herself. She is very passionate about programming and enjoys her computer science courses. The applications curriculum is challenging for her, but Erika works hard to understand both aspects of computer science. Currently, she is working on a project funded by Nasa called 3U^3 (three u cubed) with Dr. Laura Peticolas. This project will help launch a satellite into space. This project is a partnership between two other universities (Howard University and the University of New Hampshire). Erika's primary role is to work on the telemetry system to help monitor the project's antennas that collect data. She is also helping to write the program for the flight software of the project. There have been many delays in producing data for the project due to COVID, but she has still been able to make significant contributions. She admits the project has not been an easy task, but her mentors, Dr. Peticolas and Garret Jernigan, a private consultant, have helped navigate her trial and error. Erika appreciates this guidance because she will take what her mentors have taught her into her professional career.

The future... After graduation, Erika intends to go straight into industry and work. She hopes to be able to work in an environment where she can launch satellites or rockets. Erika believes that she does well in high-stress and pressured situations and knows she would be extraordinary in these positions. Pursing a Master's in Computer Science and expanding her knowledge in the field is also in her plans. Lastly, one of her biggest future goals is to teach elementary or middle school students coding and computer science. She wants to inspire the next generation to work in the computer science field and help shape the world.

Erika Diaz Ramirez Contact Information 

[email protected]