Erika Viva-Ramos, a junior criminal justice and social justice major from Louisville, dreams of positively impacting her community through public service. Nearing the finish line of her degree, her dedication has begun to pay off; she recently earned the prestigious Jo Anne J. Trow Scholarship from honor society Alpha Lambda Delta.
“I have been impressed by Erika’s intellect and passion for justice,” said Travis Martin, first-year administrator and adviser for Alpha Lambda Delta at EKU. “This scholarship will help her achieve her goals, and I suspect it will be the first of many awards she receives in her college career.”
The Trow Scholarship was started in 1988, in honor of a past National President of Alpha Lambda Delta. Viva-Ramos is one of 25 awardees to receive the Trow scholarship in the amount of $1,000, and one of 50 nationally, amid a record-breaking number of applicants.
Viva-Ramos’s first encounter with EKU came two years before coming to campus as a freshman, when she enrolled in Foster Music Camp as a cellist her junior year of high school. It didn’t take long for her to feel that she was exactly where she needed to be.
“After interacting with professors and staff from the University and exploring the beautiful campus I knew EKU was where I wanted to attend for my undergrad experience,” she said.
Since then, Viva-Ramos has maintained an active presence on campus. In addition to Alpha Lambda Delta, she serves as a Telecenter Specialist for the Office of Admissions, a Student Equipment Manager for Athletics, a First-Year Leader, and a member of the Student Social Work Association and the Residence Hall Honorary. Her impressive extracurricular resume is made possible in part by the Trow Scholarship, along with the Dr. Rodney Gross scholarship and the Heather Bailey Scholarship.
“My freshman year I was overwhelmed with working enough hours throughout the week during the semester in order to pay off my balance to be eligible to apply for classes for the following semester,” Viva-Ramos said. “These scholarships have helped me become extremely focused on my studies and help me become more involved on campus.”
Also a vital factor in her academic success, she said, are faculty who have served as mentors. Chief among them is Starr Wentzel, who taught Viva-Ramos’s first-year seminar and even helped her declare a major.
“Ms. Wentzel became a mentor from day one of my first semester. She would always do what she could in any and every possible way for her students whether that meant guidance, helping students find resources, going over resumes, the list goes on and on,” said Viva-Ramos. “Ms. Wentzel is such a selfless woman, without her patience and guidance I honestly don’t know if I would be here today receiving this scholarship.”
Upon graduation, Viva-Ramos hopes to return to Louisville to serve as a judge, lawyer, or homicide detective. Her unique— and sometimes difficult— experiences led her to that path and continue to drive her.
“What inspired my career goals would probably be not seeing enough change happening in Louisville,” said Viva-Ramos. “I understand the importance of an education. I understand first-hand how poverty, lack of education, and limited access to upward mobility can compound the problems faced by populations from low-income communities. My combined education and experience can help me make a difference.”
Those who know Viva-Ramos have no doubt that she will.
"Erika embodies everything that makes EKU a ‘school of opportunity,’” said Martin. “I cannot wait to read a news article someday about Erika changing lives.”