CAMDEN, NJ — After Bryan Santos-Ramos had to have brain surgery to remove a tumor a few years ago, he could barely walk afterward and had to learn to perform many everyday tasks.
“My friends and family never gave up on me,” Ramos told TAPinto Camden. “Eventually, my mind started to function, and I was able to start learning again. Because of my condition, it sometimes takes me a little longer to understand in school.”
Little did Ramos know that not only would he take another step, but six days before he would turn 14 he’d be joining NBA stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons on the court at Wells Fargo Center.
The Camden Prep Mt. Ephraim Middle School eighth grader was recognized as the “Strongest Kid of the Game” during the Philadelphia 76ers’ exhibition against the Golden State Warriors on Jan. 28.
“[Bryan] never lets any obstacle prevent him from achieving success. He always asks for more help, more work, and more challenges to increase his own understanding,” said the 76ers organization. “On top of that, he embodies all the school’s core values each and every day. He is someone who has overcome challenges that would have prevented anyone from giving up, but he has never let it stop him. He has become an inspiration to many and a true leader in the school.”
On Monday, Ramos celebrated his 14th birthday.
He said he couldn’t decide on his favorite Sixer, but remembers being overwhelmed when he met the team during warm-ups.
"I was nervous but it felt really good because I was so excited to represent my family and our school," he said. "So many people support me and always push me to be the best that I can be."
The team said that Ramos, “is an incredible young man who will without a doubt succeed in his dreams.”
What those dreams are: to become a scientist and basketball player.
“I love science and I want to push other kids to be their best just like my teachers do for me,” said Ramos, still mulling it over. “Maybe I would also be a 76ers player.”
Now that he has a team jersey with his name etched on the back, he doesn’t think that’s too far-fetched: “I just feel like I’m one of them now,” said Ramos, who recently joined the school's basketball club.
'I share this award'
The 76ers also awarded the school’s Dean of Students, Seck Barry, with the Community Champion award for "his incredible service to our students and school community."
The team called Barry “the heartbeat of the school” and someone who consistently works to build the ideal learning environment.
Barry said the key to that environment is the work parents and teachers put in.
"I share this award with them," said Barry, a 76ers fan. "It was truly a great privilege to be honored by the team. To me it reflects on the progress we've made over the years and the impact we’ve had on Camden.”
David and Allison Blitzer, minority owners of the team, hosted Barry, Ramos, as well as other Uncommon Schools Camden Prep students, teachers and families prior to the game. Attendees had the chance to watch the 76ers warm up and meet the team's mascot, Franklin.
Barry, who joined the school in August 2015 at its founding, said he still remembers attending a 76ers game when he was about Ramos’ age.
“I remember a lot about that trip. Seeing the city, which I now live in, and going to get a cheesesteak at Jimmy's. But what stands out the most is Allen Iverson. I saw him play,” Barry reflected. “Could you imagine how that felt like for a 13-year-old?”