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Texas Earth Team Volunteer Faces Challenges and Grows

story by Melissa Blair

Just like the plants in the People's Garden he waters and tends in front of the Cameron County USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) office, Danny Ramos has blossomed and grown during his six years as a volunteer with the Earth Team program. Growing up in Harlingen in far South Texas, helping his father with the horses and cattle, Ramos developed a love and appreciation of the land. He wanted to continue working with livestock and the land, so he started taking agricultural classes at Texas State Technical College where he learned about NRCS' Earth Team volunteer program and signed up in 2006.

For many Earth Team volunteers, conservation outreach is an exciting part of their duties. It's a time to meet new people at events and tell them about NRCS, but for Ramos, it was not exciting; in fact, it was downright frightening. Ramos, who suffered an illness as a child, has overcome many challenges, including communicating with other people, throughout his 25 years of life to get to where he is today.

"When Danny came to volunteer he wouldn't look at any of us in the face and rarely spoke; he was extremely bashful," said Oz Longoria, District Conservationist for Cameron County NRCS. "Danny now interacts with the staff and landowners that come into the office. He is able to help our NRCS staff and the soil and water conservation district secretary with filing, copying, binding reports, and other responsibilities."

Danny's parents, Joe and Virginia Ramos, have seen the positive benefits the Earth Team Volunteer program has had on their son as he has become more outspoken and has made new friends.

"We are glad he found a place to work with Earth Team," said Virginia Ramos. "He has learned a lot from the Department and the employees that help him. Danny has made a big change. He is more open around people and has learned to do more work in different things."

Ramos also knows the personal benefits his volunteer work has on his education. He has learned about protecting the natural resources from the NRCS employees and landowners, which has helped him with his classes at TSTC, where he is working to complete his Certificate in Agriculture by spring 2013. Ramos also participates in the TSTC Agriculture Club on campus.

"I tell my friends and others that this is a great opportunity to volunteer and as a career too," said Ramos. "NRCS helps people help the land so they can continue in agriculture. NRCS has helped me by teaching me how to help others."

Ramos hopes one day to work with NRCS because he enjoys working with the landowners and visiting the ranches. He likes knowing the things he does now as an Earth Team volunteer, such as loading equipment to take to the field, tending the plants at the NRCS office, and keeping the equipment and trucks clean, is making a positive difference.

Danny Ramos (far right), Earth Team volunteer in San Benito NRCS Field Office, provides a wide array of volunteer assistance to Cameron County District Conservationist, Oz Longoria (left), and Gabe Cavazos, Conservationist Agronomist. Earth Team volunteer, Danny Ramos, has donated more than 2,500 hours since he signed up as an Earth Team volunteer in Sept. 2006.

Danny Ramos (far right), Earth Team volunteer in San Benito NRCS Field Office, provides a wide array of volunteer assistance to Cameron County District Conservationist, Oz Longoria (left), and Gabe Cavazos, Conservationist Agronomist.

Earth Team volunteer, Danny Ramos, has donated more than 2,500 hours since he signed up as an Earth Team volunteer in Sept. 2006.