SAN FRANCISCO (CBS 5) — He was once a rising star on the football field and top of his game, but drugs took it all away.
Eason Ramson made the choice to change his life around, which he did with the support of friends and by becoming the head of the Center for Academic Re-entry and Empowerment, or the CARE program.
In the CARE program, Ramson gives support to students who have dropped out of high school and were ready to give up. The YMCA in Bayview Hunters Point offers this unique program and Ramson stepped in with a team approach to re-engage kids in school and ultimately graduate.
“We help them turn the light on because they know we care and let them know we aren’t going to give up on them just like Bill Walsh didn’t give up on me,” Ramson recalled of the support he received from his former coach.
Having played for the 49ers from 1979 until he was traded in 1984, Ramson knows what teamwork is all about. He even helped win a Super bowl, but a drug addiction led to his downfall and by 1990 he was heading to prison.
“My life was this vicious cycle where all I lived for was to get loaded, I’d get loaded I’d run out of drugs and I’d go to re-up to lie or steal to get more,” Ramson confessed.
Today, Ramson has been clean for eleven years, surrounded in his office with pictures of his former coach and teammates. He remembers these people wouldn’t give up on him when he had given up on himself. He kept a letter from former Coach Bill Walsh to the District Attorney written on Ramson’s behalf plus a poster of his former teammate Bubba Paris who stood up and spoke to the judge at his prison sentencing.
“He spoke about a person I didn’t know anymore, and he told them that there is something in this man worth saving,” Ramson remembered. “Just give this man another chance.”
Ramson got that chance with a reduced sentence and after serving his time, took his hard learned lessons to help young people avoid the same mistakes.
“He’s like a Dad to me,” one of his CARE graduates Shamarea Bailey said.
Bailey was in the foster system and dropped out of high school until she found the CARE program and Ramson’s guidance.
“He’s been keeping me in check and on top of my game,” Bailey said. “He does a lot. Some kids don’t get fed at home, and when we come to school he feeds us, like he talks to us about our problems.”
The program staff and Ramson assess each child that comes through the CARE program to help them with their needs; whether it’s housing, mental health, or job skills. They are a structure of support for the whole child so they can succeed in school. Bailey served as a perfect example, graduating and having started Heald College last week.
“He keeps it real, he tells the truth like it’s reality like he basically don’t tell stories, he don’t tell fairy tales, he just tells you how it is,” she said.
Ramson turned his second chance at life into a commitment to change lives. He said, “I feel like I’ve been given a gift and the gift has been my experiences and my experiences are people who stood by me and I’m giving back.”
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