Produced & edited by Anne Bannister; cinematography by Anne Bannister, & Tessa Benavides, & Brian Diggs
Natalia Goméz Ramback revisits the family home where she was raised. She sits on the porch with her sister Martha (left), niece Angelica (right), and Pearl the chihuahua who are the current stewards of the land and home.

Natalia Goméz Ramback revisits the family home where she was raised. She sits on the porch with her sister Martha (left), niece Angelica (right), and Pearl the chihuahua who are the current stewards of the land and home.

Papalote years

Ramback is the youngest of 10, raised by her grandparents in Papalote, Texas, a small community about 40 minutes north of Corpus Christi. If you blink while driving along the small stretch of highway 181, you might just miss it. 

El Ranchoas Ramback’s family called their small plot of land, is nestled right off the highway. 

“Growing up, my grandfather, a World War II veteran, was a very, very proud American. He had a first-grade education. His family were migrant workers. My grandmother grew up in Benavidez, Texas. She had a big family and she went to the sixth grade. To them, education was extremely important, and being an American was also very, very important.”

Ramback’s grandparents were very active in the volunteer fire department. Her grandfather helped keep the fire engines ready and responded to emergency calls. The department also served as a community center and the county’s voting site. From the time Ramback was four or five, she remembers going out to the firehouse on election day. She remembers the excitement and the crowds of people. Most of all, she remembers how proud her grandparents were to cast a vote and help others do the same. Years later, she realized the significance of what they modeled. Ramback sees her grandparents as the American dream in action and her generation as the culmination of their hard work and dedication to this country. 

“My grandfather was very, very, very proud of, one, not only being an American, but being able to be educated and live that American dream. One of the things that he used to say to our family is, ‘I work with my hands and I work really hard so that you guys don’t have to work with your hands. You get to work with your mind.’ That is something that I’m very proud of where I am.”

On a recent trip to Papalote, Ramback paid a visit to the volunteer firehouse where her grandparents volunteered for many years. 

Ramback graduated from Texas A&M University at Corpus Christi with a degree in bilingual education and moved to Austin on a whim to explore what she called “the big city.” 

She was drawn to bilingual education as a way of honoring her Mexican American culture and helping her students do the same. “As Mexican American people or as bilingual people, sometimes you step away from who you are because you think that’s what you’re supposed to do. And I’ve learned through my life that, when you do that, you give away part of yourself. And I don’t want kids to ever have to do that.” 

She interviewed for positions at two different campuses in Georgetown ISD. One of them was Frost Elementary school. The school leader was a first-year principal named Alma Guzman Molleur. “I remember walking into her office and she reminded me of my sister, Ruth, and that endeared me immediately.” She got the job and Molleur became her mentor.

Ramback says she admired Molleur’s fearlessness and strong sense of self as a leader. “I don’t know that she knew that and that I could see that? I don’t know that I’ve ever told her that because she’s still in my life today. I watched her become one of the most authentic people I have ever known.”

When Ramback became an assistant principal and later a principal, she continued to learn from Molleur’s leadership and counsel. In 2014, Molleur encouraged Ramback to apply to attend the Harvard Leadership Institutes through the Raising School Leaders program, previously led by the Raise Your Hand Texas Foundation and now part of the Charles Butt Foundation. She was accepted and Ramback joined Molleur as part of the Charles Butt Foundation alumni network. Ramback continued to dig deeper into leadership development opportunities, and later principal advocacy.

Ramback reflects how, as she moved into formal leadership roles, she felt the need to look and act a certain part. She traded in her colorful earrings and blouses for neutrals and dark tones. Without realizing it, she was suppressing pieces of her Mexican American identity to fit a certain idea of what leadership looks like.

“In my mind, I knew that I should be who I was and be my authentic self, but my fear and those little voices in your head, I tried to be somebody else. That’s hard for me to admit because I know that was not the best thing to do, but it was what I thought I needed to do.”

Living through Winter Storm Uri and the COVID-19 pandemic reawakened many of Ramback’s childhood memories and caused deep reflection on who she is and the impact she hopes to make. She committed to herself and her community to recover the pieces of her identity she had shed. She wanted to fully display her authentic self and showcase where she came from.

At the end of the 2020-2021 school year, Ramback felt closer to her students and faculty for having reconnected with her roots and sharing her story openly. 

“The last year and a half has been the hardest in my career in many ways, but I wouldn’t change it because it helped me grow as a leader and as a person in such profound ways that I would go through it again if it meant that I would be a better leader and a better person moving forward.”

Ramback poses in front of the Texas State capitol

Ramback poses in front of the Texas State capitol. She’s been passionate about voter engagement and community building since childhood. As a regional advocacy director for Raise Your Hand Texas, she will hold town halls and candidate forums, uplift educator voices, and build coalitions around pressing education issues.

New beginnings

In the summer of 2021, Ramback joined the Raise Your Hand Texas team (our sister organization) as the Regional Advocacy Director for Central Houston. In this role, she will hold town halls and candidate forums, build coalitions around public education issues, and amplify educator voices. 

“My husband, he laughs because he says, ‘Now you get to do for a job, what you spent so much of your volunteer time doing,’ … It’s an extension of what I was already doing, just in a deeper way.”

While heartbroken to leave her campus community, she felt like her life had been building toward this opportunity to further honor her grandparents’ legacy as an engaged citizen and community builder.

“The impact that I hope to make is to either ignite or reignite a fire in our education advocates and to become part of the community to the point where we are working as a unit. That’s what somebody did for me. That’s what my experiences have done for me.” 

Connect with your regional advocacy director at Raise Your Hand Texas to get engaged with the education issues impacting your local community.