Jenny Bautista Ramirez credits her strong work ethic to the sacrifices her parents made to provide opportunities for their children, which includes the circumstances they went through to immigrate to the U.S.
Bautista Ramirez’ parent’s lived in Zacatecas, Mexico before immigrating to the U.S. in 1992 to work in the agriculture industry and provide a more stable environment for their children.
Her father, Rutilio, illegally immigrated to the U.S. previously in the 1980s when he was 17 years old, and was deported on different occasions. He later received residency through President Ronald Reagan’s 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act, after finding employment in a dairy outside Homedale.
Growing up in the agriculture industry gave Bautista Ramirez an interest in the field, and she chose to attend the University of Idaho to pursue a degree in food science from the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS).
Bautista Ramirez is a first-generation college student. Her mother, who didn’t have as many educational opportunities, was always a fierce advocate for her children’s education, helping teach them math before they entered primary school, she said.
“She taught us what she knew, so by the time that I was in kindergarten I knew how to add and subtract perfectly. I knew how to count up to 1,000 and do it by twos, do it by threes,” Bautista Ramirez said. “I knew all of that — the only bad part was that I knew it in Spanish and I didn't know it too much in English.”
Bautista Ramirez took an introductory agriculture class in eighth grade that helped spark an interest in food science. Her teacher, Lori Idsinga, a CALS agricultural education alumna, said after 10 years of teaching, Bautista Ramirez stood out.
“She just continued to surprise you because she was always evolving and she was always changing,” Idsinga said.
Idsinga, who’s known Bautista Ramirez for six years and is still in contact with her, said Bautista Ramirez was a shy eighth grader, but soon became involved in FFA and wanted to better understand agriculture.
Bautista Ramirez, an Idaho FFA state officer, attended the National FFA Convention as a junior in high school, and Idsinga said she noticed a change in the high school student afterward.
“We got coffee after that and all of a sudden it was like this door had been opened for Jenny,” she said. “She was just on fire. She had passion about agriculture and everything involved in it and was just ready to take on the world.”
Soon after, Bautista Ramirez began touring colleges with her mother and older sister, Norma, who graduated from Boise State University. Moscow felt like home, given Bautista Ramirez’ ties to high school FFA events and how many familiar faces she sees at UI because of them.
Bautista Ramirez said she is the product of hard work and sacrifice, which was reflected when her father, who never takes a day off work as a dairy foreman in Homedale, drove to UI’s campus to drop her off.
There were tears.
“When I was 17, just last year, I would call him when he was in the other room and there was a spider there so he could come kill it. I'm a big baby. Coming up to UI and that big transition, I was a little bit nervous,” Bautista Ramirez said. “I can only imagine how it was for him to come to another country.”
Story by Jake Smith, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences