Left to right, Asst. Professor of Community Health Kelly Bentley; Community Health Ed students Ronie Morales, Melissa Boulette, Rhiannan Jackson. (Photo Courtesy of UMF Website)

By Lindsay Mower, Staff Reporter

Ronie Morales, a familiar face and accomplished Community Health Education major on UMF’s tiny liberal campus, is worth getting to know before he graduates this May. Known for his optimistic and infectious attitude, along with his commitment to the enrichment of the Western Maine community, Morales is one of the class of Spring ‘17’s finest.

Last semester, as a student in the Resource Management and Grant Writing course taught by Community Health Education professor Kelly Bentley, Morales and a group of his classmates secured a $5,000 grant for the Farmington Homeless Shelter. Morales said that the process for obtaining the grant for the shelter located on the Wilton Road was arduous, but was made easier with the help of fellow classmates Zach Bonnevie, Melissa Sawyer-Boulette, Tasha DeRoche, Rhiannan Jackson and Ryan Rice.

The group of students collaborated with the Board of Directors from the Western Maine Homeless Outreach. “We negotiated that we would use the ‘Rent Smart’ program, which is basically an education system for the homeless people teaching them how to maintain permanent housing and how to be smart when it comes to financial aid,” said Morales.

Morales believes that growing up witnessing living conditions in disadvantaged neighborhoods and experiencing an array of communities and cultures has helped him to better understand the fundamentals of public health, especially the need for grant money in areas of poverty. He was born in Houston, Texas, where he lived for eight years before moving to Guatemala, and uprooting again to Long Island, New York where he would remain until graduating from high school in 2013.

Along with his passion for healthcare, Morales is also a talented soccer player. His large involvement in the sport is what brought him to UMF. Morales was picked up by UMF recruiters to play soccer here his freshman year after given a positive reference by Zachary Sathasivam, a Psychology Major and fellow soccer player who graduated from UMF in 2015.

During his first semester at UMF Morales switched his major to Community Health Education almost immediately, forming a relationship with Community Health Professor Maurice Martin as a mentor. It was these types of very real connections made in Farmington that made him fall in love with this community. Morales says, “I like the students, the professors and the locals here,” adding, “everyone is willing to help you if you’re down low… everyone knows who they are here. Farmington, to me, is more like a family.”

Sofia Vanoli, a Spanish Teacher’s Assistant at UMF, has nothing but good things to say about Morales’ character as a community member and as a student. Vanoli, who has had him in the classroom, affirms his great interest in soccer and the culture surrounding the passionate sport. Vanoli says, “We all enjoy Ronie’s sense of humor,” she adds, “He’s very motivated in class and it shows that he likes participating.”

With an outstanding belt of minors in coaching, nutrition and child and adolescence, Morales has several options on his horizon for what he can do to put his impressive degree to good use. He would like to coach soccer and track and field at the middle school and high school level, but he also dreams of working in a more professional setting as a community health program coordinator or taking on a position at the Center for Disease Control (CDC) to build himself a more health-progressive career.

Morales says with a laugh that his future isn’t set in stone, though he plans to spend his Summer with family in South Carolina before returning to the Western Maine area to wrap up his internship this Fall. Given his resume, we can all be sure that Morales’ upcoming contributions to society will surely be good ones.