It’s been a busy final semester at Roger Williams University for Bristol’s Jesse Ramos. In addition to finishing up his classes, studying for exams, and comparing classic European literature to modern hip-hop music (his thesis topic), he’s been polishing an address he’ll present in front of “12,000 eyeballs” this weekend.
“I’ve never spoken in front of that many people,” Mr. Ramos said as he prepares to deliver the student commencement address at the university’s graduation Saturday morning. “It’s my first chance, and maybe my last, to get up in front of that many people. I just want to make sure I say all I have to say. It’s really cool to do something that big. It’s a good anxiety.”
It is a particular honor for the English literature and education double-major, a graduate of Mt. Hope High School, Kickemuit Middle and Reynolds Elementary. He is the first Bristol native to deliver the student commencement address at the hometown university.
“I had no idea I’d be the first,” Mr. Ramos said. “Not a lot of Bristol kids go here. I never thought I’d be one to stick around town. But I’m glad I did. I ended up enjoying it here a lot.”
He plans to use the opportunity of the commencement address to express how special the town and university has been to him, and remind everyone at the school and in the Bristol community how much he appreciates the support and encouragement they’ve given him in his four years there.
“The theme is love — the most important thing I think there is,” Mr. Ramos said of his address. “The love and respect I’ve felt at this school has been monumental and something that should be talked about. We’re all going through this together. We all made it together. We all need each other to get by. I want to tell them how much I appreciate them.”
While Mr. Ramos hasn’t had quite the size audience as the 6,000 or so people expected at Roger Williams’ graduation Saturday, he is no stranger to public speaking and performance. A gifted poet, Mr. Ramos is known around campus as the “Poetry Slam Guy,” having hosted the school’s popular biannual live poetry competition for the past three years.
“It’s been one of my favorite experiences ever. It’s helped show me how connected we are as students and as people in general,” Mr. Ramos said. “All my friends here have played a huge role in keeping me sane — and keeping me insane at the same time. You need that balance.”
When he’s not writing poetry or student teaching, Mr. Ramos is playing basketball, listening to music or — like many college students — catching a power nap under the sun on the quad. After graduation, he plans to spend the summer working with the RI Transition Academy, part of the East Bay Collaborative, helping young adults with autism transition to work or college life. Beyond the summer, he hopes to find a teaching job, preferably in an alternative school.
“It would be cool to find a spot where’s there’s a different type of curriculum,” he said. “I love to teach and help people. That’s what I want to do. It’s all up in the air. I’m excited to see where I end up.”
So are 1,035 Roger Williams graduates who will earn their degrees this weekend. Commencement is scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday on the university’s main athletic field. In addition to Mr. Ramos, Gov. Lincoln Chafee is scheduled to deliver the commencement address. The commencement is not open to the public, but it will be streamed live on the university’s website, www.rwu.edu.
A day earlier, at 1 p.m., the university’s law school will confer degrees to its graduates — the final graduation for School of Law Dean David Logan. New York Chief Judge Judith Kaye is scheduled to speak before the new lawyers.