Vail Daily column: Ramunno balances academics, athletics and service | VailDaily.com

Vail Daily column: Ramunno balances academics, athletics and service

Jason Peck
Youth Leader Spotlight

Mike Ramunno

"Ain't it great to be a Devil?" This is Eagle Valley High School senior Mike Ramunno's mantra.

It may have been influenced by his dedicated high school football coach (and father), but he takes true pride in its reference to the Eagle Valley High School mascot. Ramunno's athletic frame, laid-back demeanor and smile all invite fellow classmates to follow his lead. As he struts down the hallways in his varsity letterman's jacket, he doesn't seem to fit the typical stereotype of an accomplished high school athlete who captains both the football and lacrosse teams. There are many more layers to this young man. The adjectives empathy and compassion come to mind.

Ramunno doesn't shy away from challenges and prefers to stack his plate high with a variety of extracurricular clubs and volunteer opportunities. During his years at Eagle Valley High School, he has served on the panel of advisors for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, has been a student leader for Devils against Destructive Decisions and a member of Link Crew. The Link Crew mentors incoming freshman, to make their transition from middle school to high school a bit less intimidating. The DADD program, directed by the school's registrar and drama instructor, Cathy Strickler, combats social injustice within Eagle Valley High School and throughout Eagle County. The representatives serve as a direct communication link between the student body and school administration. They can also be seen rolling up their sleeves and helping at community events such as the annual GOLD party in collaboration with the Eagle River Youth Coalition, promoting substance-free lifestyle choices on April 20 each year. This event stands for Get Out and Live Drug-Free and celebrates the smart and healthy decisions that our youth are making on a regular basis. Ramunno has also participated in Habitat for Humanity projects, breast cancer awareness walks and Eagle River clean-up days.

"This work is important because it helps people who are in a bad place — a place where anyone can find themselves at one time or another," he said.

Ramunno plays a crucial role in Eagle River Youth Coalition's Youth Leadership Council. These hand-selected students represent all of the local high schools and advise police, principals, school counselors and small businesses on community-wide youth concerns. Through a collective voice, the Youth Leadership Council members offer strategies to make our valley a more healthy and inclusive environment for teens. Ramunno was the recipient of the 2014 Youth Summiteer Award during Eagle River Youth Coalition's Valley Tastings fundraiser. This award is given to exemplary Eagle County youth who take on roles that make their name synonymous with leadership, resulting in positive changes.

Through Ramunno's commitment to athletics and academics, he has completed many dual enrollment and Advanced Placement college courses and hopes to graduate this May with an associate degree from Colorado Mountain College. He aspires to study criminal justice at Western State Colorado University next fall and potentially work in criminal justice one day. I hope Mike doesn't stray too far from this valley; he will certainly be missed.

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Jason Peck is the program director at the Eagle River Youth Coalition, a local nonprofit organization that offers collaborative prevention programs. The Youth Leaders Council is a program of the Eagle River Youth Coalition. The Eagle River Youth Coalition also offers parenting education and training for community members. For more information, call 970-949-9250 or visit http://www.eagleyouth.org.