Against all odds

California student overcomes a tough upbringing to study dietetics at Mizzou.

This is a picture of Dr. Chris Hardin and Ramiro Arreola

Ramiro (right) has thrived while at Mizzou, earning a near perfect GPA. Here he is pictured with Chris Hardin, chair and professor of nutrition and exercise physiology (left).

Ramiro Arreola, a senior studying dietetics in the Department of Nutrition and Exercise Physiology at Mizzou, is no stranger to hardship. Growing up in a rough neighborhood in the Los Angeles area didn’t make for an easy childhood. The son of Mexican immigrants, Arreola lost his mom in September 2016, and despite a lack of formal education, Arreola’s dad supported the family through a construction career.

Money was tight and often there was little or no food in the fridge. At one point the family was even forced to move into a converted garage. When Arreola was eight, his sister had her first child. She was 16 at the time. A year later she had her second child.

“I had to play a part to survive,” Arreola said. “Fortunately, I never got involved with drugs or gangs, but I was definitely exposed to it.”

Underrepresented students often face academic, financial and cultural barriers that go beyond the normal difficulties of being a first-year college student. For Arreola, his biggest challenge was a lack of guidance, but that changed when he met his first mentor at East Los Angeles Community College.

“She completely pointed me in the right direction,” Arreola said. “My mom attended some community college more than 40 years ago and my dad never attended college, so they were not able to provide guidance with the application process. In fact I had never even heard of the ACT. My mentor taught me that anything worth doing is going to be hard. She changed everything for me.”

Arreola earned his associates degree in kinesiology and decided to take his education a step further. He applied to the College of Human and Environmental Sciences at the University of Missouri and was accepted. The Edward G. and Elizabeth Bower Family Scholarship provided him the money he needed to attend.

At Mizzou, Arreola has flourished. With a near perfect GPA, medical school is on his mind. Outside of the classroom, Arreola is a member of the Tae Kwon Do Club and MU Student Wellness Advocates.

“I got out of my tough situation not because I was smart, but because I worked hard,” Arreola said. “I didn’t get good grades or even know how to study until I went to college. If you work hard, it’s never too late to turn your life around.”

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