AURORA | While most high school seniors were preoccupied earlier this year with prom and final exams, Goldie Ramey was coping with losing everything to a house fire.
Ramey, 18, was a senior at Gateway High School in the Aurora Public Schools district. Hard work at school got her a 4.4 GPA this year. Between classes and homework, Ramey shoe-horned in extracurricular activities including theater and culinary classes, a part-time job at an Aurora Mall store and the death of a beloved dog.
She had enough on her plate this spring, but she was on her way to graduation.
In March, Ramey’s future became less clear-cut. A neighbor in her family’s apartment complex left a cigarette burning, and the building caught on fire.
She wasn’t home at the time it started but when she did arrive, her apartment building was engulfed in fire.
“There were flames everywhere,” she said.
Ramey rushed in to her apartment and pulled out two younger brothers and her mother, who grabbed only her purse on the way out.
Aside from a storage facility with some baby photos in it, that was all her family had, she said. Gone were every family heirloom, photo and treasure.
Life changed in an instant.
She lived with her family in a hotel for about a week, before their apartment complex management moved them into a different unit. Theirs was the only unit that burned, she said, because the flames spread from the cigarette ember up the wall and into their home.
Ramey said the event gave her a glimpse of real adult responsibility. She watched her mother agonize over insurance negotiations, trying to make ends meet after the fire.
But Ramey has been ahead of the curve. She worked part-time all year to make sure her mother didn’t have to pay for student fees and prom dresses.
She’s an active member of Gateway’s community and has been an Aurora local since she started sixth grade at Aurora Hills Middle School.
At Gateway, Ramey was cast in six theater productions during her tenure at the school, and this year served as a manager for the school football team, gathering equipment and keeping water bottles filled.
If those two extracurriculars sound leagues apart, that’s because they are: Ramey wanted a wide range of experiences from Gateway because she didn’t have a clear vision of what she wanted to do, she said.
Now, she’s gravitating toward a degree in business administration, but she wants to keep an open mind as she approaches college.
The Golden Eagle full-ride scholarship, awarded by APS, will allow her to do just that. Tuition for CSU-Global otherwise costs about $8,400 a year for an undergraduate program, according to the college’s website. APS partners with CSU-Global to offer discounted tuition to its students who aren’t scholarship recipients as well.
Ramey beamed when talking about the opportunity, which she said frees her up to stay in Aurora with her friends and family, work and earn a degree – likely in business administration. CSU was her first choice for college.
The jarring series of events this spring have also prepared her for the real world.
Ramey’s favorite parts of high school involved self-discovery, she said. For example, she preferred literature classes where the teachers made stories personal.
Her favorite book was “Under the Dome,” a 1,000-page Stephen King book about a small town that is mysteriously cut off from the rest of the world by a transparent dome.
The characters suddenly have to deal with the strange, new adversity.
She’s living that still.
Ramey said she approached the loss of her home with a perspective most people can benefit from: even though we all cling to our material objects, immaterial memories of others and feelings matter most.