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An Extraordinary Jane: Stephanie Ramirez

Jesse Locks and Elisa Parker
Special to the Sunday Express

Stephanie Ramirez is an everyday woman living in Eastside San Jose. The 23-year-old, former teenage runaway rebel now channels her energy and experience into activism and filmmaking that highlights women’s voices.

Stephanie’s life shifted drastically, as well as her relationship with her mother, when she became a participant in the Girls for a Change program. The national organization empowers teen girls to create and lead social change through an extensive mentorship program.

As a recent graduate of UC Santa Cruz with a major in film and digital media, Stephanie documented her mother’s journey with breast cancer. The film, “Love of My Life,” was featured in the Santa Cruz Film Festival.



You’ve called yourself a runaway rebel when you were younger. What was life like for you before you discovered Girls for a Change?

“I’ve always gone outside the box and at the time I was searching for my place in the world, to discover some kind of truth. I tended to find truth in rebelling. I was a punk rock girl with a mohawk and piercings.”




Tell us about your first meeting with Girls for a Change and how you became involved.

“I was driving in the car with my mom and she told me about Girls for a Change and that she wanted to be a coach. I completely shut her down. I didn’t understand that her inclination was to understand her daughter in doing this. So I went with her to one of the meetings and got sucked in.”

It seems like Girls for a Change had a significant impact on you.

“The people at Girls for a Change are like family. I have participated in their program for about eight years. It’s amazing how many organizations there are that are building strong communities for girls.”

What do you think girls are going through right now?

“I think self-esteem is just one of those eternal problems. For example, girls are concerned if they’re good enough to make it in higher education. Women’s relationship with each other is another issue.”

What is the Girl Action Team and the community issue you took on with Girls for a Change?

“Each of us on the team had all experienced self-esteem issues. So we produced a full-day self esteem summit dedicated to girls. We held the summit at Rancho Middle School. There were workshops around self-defense, dance, and I held an art workshop. We were 16 years old.”

Did you have a coach or mentor to guide you through this project?

“We had two, Joan Scott and my mom.”

How did your relationship shift with your mom?

“We put everything aside and had an issue to work on together. It was really exhilarating.”

What kind of impact did the Girls Summit have on the girls?

“It was extremely successful. There was no drama. There was laughter and girls hugging each other, singing, doing fun stuff and expressing themselves in any way possible. Nobody held back.”

As a 16 year old co-leading this event, how did the experience impact your own self-esteem?

“As a woman I still doubt myself, but to know that women have that kind of power, it’s definitely inspired me. That moment during the summit was one of the first times where I thought, I can inspire girls and they can inspire me.”

When you’ve spoken at other summits, what is your message to the girls?

“The first summit I spoke at I was actually a runaway. My message was the importance of always obtaining your individuality. I was surprised Girls for a Change was still there to have my back. They wanted to hear my story. So the second message was that mentors actually exist, and they can act as a catalyst for girl’s voices.

How has having a mentor affected your relationship with other girls, women and your family?

“I was often judgmental because I had been judged, but going through Girls for a Change has made me very passionate about hearing other women’s stories, getting close to girls and collaborating with them on other projects.”

As a filmmaker, why did you feel it was important to document your mother’s journey with breast cancer?

“Exceptional women who face extraordinary obstacles must have their stories told. My mother has experienced many issues that are common to women such as divorce and breast cancer. I absolutely knew that she would survive this disease and I knew her victory had to be documented. I was also very scared for her and I believed that the process of documenting would also be a reflection process as well as a reflexive one.”

How did the experience change the way you operate in the world and your relationship with your mom?

“The experience of producing this documentary has literally changed my perspective. It is important for young women and their mentors to bridge the age gap and understand each other so that we can work together on issues. The more I observe my mother overcoming monumental problems that life throws at her the more I look up to her courage and wisdom.”

Why do you think it’s so important for everyday women to hear your story right now?

“I’m an everyday woman. I’m also an exceptional woman, as well as many other women like my mother. Everyday women are exceptional and sometimes it’s hard for women to figure that out by themselves. I’m still figuring it out. It’s important for women to hear about collaboration and Girls for a Change because we need this to help each other grow.”

Where do you see yourself five years from now?

“I see myself producing the most positive forms of media that will inspire everyone, especially women, around the world.”

What is your message to women and girls around the world?

“My message is to never lose focus of who you are.”

See Jane Do is a multi-media program capturing the stories of everyday women doing extraordinary things for the planet. Catch the one-hour talk radio program on KVMR 89.5FM the first Wednesday of every month from 1 p.m.-2 p.m. For more information, visit http://www.seejanedo.com.


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