‘I’ve got nothing to be afraid of’

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Ann DeRamus, a 71-year-old retired social worker, often walks to Harlan High School in Roseland, where she has been a tutor for the past two years through the One Church, One School program, an affiliate of WITS.

“With God on my side, I’ve got nothing to be afraid of,” she says.

In her first year, DeRamus was in the classroom, helping students with reading. Then, to make use of her expertise, school officials asked her to switch to the guidance office, where she volunteers four days a week. Now, DeRamus is one of the first faces many students and parents see.

“I always ask the students what they plan to do when they finish school,” she says. “Sometimes they come to see me and seek advice. I find the kids are very concerned about their future. Or I’ll step in and stop a fight.” She also nudges parents to ensure their students attend school on time.

“I have no problems with the students,” she says. “Just because I’m a little older, I’m young at heart,” she quips. The students respect her: if a male violates the dress code by coming to class wearing an earring, he will take it out without a fuss if DeRamus asks him to.

DeRamus retired as a social worker from the Illinois Department of Public Aid after 37 years. She attended Alabama State College in Montgomery, receiving a double-major degree in both education and social work. On May 6, she will attend the school’s Golden Jubilee celebration for her graduating class of 1948. “I can’t wait,” she beams.

In 1952, DeRamus moved to Chicago to attend both Loyola University and the University of Illinois at Chicago for graduate social work. “In those days, women were expected to be nurses, teachers or social workers,” she says. “Now they can do anything.”

Through her membership in the National Association of University Women, DeRamus works to ensure other young women go to college. Through a program sponsored by her Carter Temple Church, she also feeds the hungry and provides them with clothing and a prayer every two weeks.

“You can see a glass half empty or half full,” she says. “Why see it half empty?”