“I remember, I got to IDP and they asked me, ‘What do you want to do?’ I was like, ‘Oh, I matter now! I exist! This is cool!’ They didn’t do that in my old school… Now I had people stop me in the hall and say, ‘You have such a good track record. You need to keep it up.'”
Last June, at the 2017 NYC Transfer School Conference, Eskolta featured a panel of recent transfer school alumni. Orlando Ramos graduated from Innovation Diploma Plus High School (IDP) in 2016. Since then he was hired as a freelance contractor at Bloomberg News. He is currently studying Digital Imaging at Borough of Manhattan Community College. Orlando is passionate about videography, photography, and media. You can find his work on Instagram here.
This interview is comprised of excerpts from our conversation with Orlando during the panel. In it, he shares some of the experiences that restarted his education when he transferred to Innovation Diploma Plus.
Q: Tell us about yourself.
Right now, I’m a freelance contractor at Bloomberg News… Before, I failed every class. I had to go to summer school every year since 7th grade. I skipped school for weeks at a time. I reformed myself with the help of the staff at Innovation Diploma Plus. Every day was a motivational speech. Within a year and a half, I made it from skipping school every day to working at Bloomberg News with some documentary credits and a television credit at 19 years old.
Q: Was there a moment when something changed for you?
I remember, I got to IDP and they asked me, “What do you want to do?” I was like, “Oh, I matter now! I exist! This is cool!” They didn’t do that in my old school… Now I had people stop me in the hall and say, “You have such a good track record. You need to keep it up.” And I started paying attention to the fact that I did have a good track record — And I was like, “Alright, let me keep up my reputation.” They made me enjoy who I was, even if I wasn’t a social butterfly.
Q: Do you know students or alumni who didn’t seem motivated? What advice can you offer transfer school staff who are trying to help those students?
I would say give them opportunities. I learned from every opportunity I got at IDP… I’m at Bloomberg News, I got out of high school eight months ago. That’s major growth, and I did it doing the same things that the students at IDP are doing right now. They’re getting their mentorships from EVC (Educational Video Center), just like I did, and they can move up from there. It can happen. But yeah, some kids really lack motivation or the ability to open up and believe that someone cares about them because they’ve been so roughed-up in life. They see no reason to do things… When [a teacher or mentor] can talk to you and shows you that they care about you, lean in to that moment of vulnerability.
Q: Are there specific resources, or tools that helped you?
My tool was being able to be shy, be me, be an introvert. I just needed to come to school and focus. Thank god there was an emphasis on respect and personal space at the school. My whole class was 50 students, and there were probably only 200 students in the school. So, there are no more than fifteen students in the class at a time. We all had our own space… So my tool is having a super dope school that wouldn’t let anybody bother anyone else.
Q: Do you have any advice to give other transfer school students?
I would tell students to write down the words of advice people give them. Then they can look back and know who it was from and it would be an archive of quotes to go back on. I remember, I would write letters to my intern organizer or director. Every day we would write letters back and forth, full of advice. I still have that journal to this day. It’s covered in graffiti, but I still read it and I still read the things she would tell me… Moments pass, so keep them somewhere.
Q: In your job right now, are there moments when you’re like “I’d like to give them some advice from IDP”?
Yeah! Everyone there is so old. I’m like the youngest person in the building. They all wear the same shirts, like button-down plaid shirts. It’s so weird. Everyone looks the same from behind. So, I walk in and people look at me and they’re like, “Who’s this young guy?” and I’m like, “I’m a person! You can say hi and talk to me!”