Saydel High School student thrives, gets art scholarship after coming to Iowa knowing little English

Saydel High School graduate Anahi Ramos Beltran poses for a photo at the school on Thursday, May 19, 2022. Meg McLaughlin / The Register

By Chris Higgins, Des Moines Register

A Saydel High School student’s journey after moving to Iowa has proven inspirational to her alma mater as she prepares for the next big stage of her life.

Anahi Ramos Beltran of Des Moines graduated Sunday after coming to Iowa at age 12 and knowing very little English. She was born in northern Mexico, and her dad decided to bring the family to Iowa after he worked in the state for a long time.


Ramos Beltran had a lot to learn, including the English language, starting with words in the first year and sentences in the second year, all tied together by practice with teachers, books, audio and other classmates. The move was difficult at first, as Ramos Beltran did not know anyone in Iowa, but she said the experience helped her grow as a person.

She quickly got involved in school activities and participated in tennis, National Honor Society, soccer, cheerleading and art club. Now, Ramos Beltran is set to attend the University of Northern Iowa with a scholarship for graphic design.

“People should believe in themselves and try every time,” Ramos Beltran said. “You always have an option.”

Much of Ramos Beltran’s art infuses Mexican culture as a representation of her heritage. She loves using acrylic paint and gold leaf, and she does a lot of abstract work.


Ramos Beltran’s teachers helped her research where to go for college, ahead of her decision to attend UNI and securing the scholarship, and her parents are proud of her graduation. She described her high school experience as “unexpected,” with a lot of transitions and not knowing what was going to happen next.

Her experience has impacted those around her at Saydel.



“Anahi is one of the most thoughtful students that I have had the pleasure to work with,” said Principal Kevin Schulte. “In addition, she has worked extremely hard and her efforts are producing great results. She is a wonderful example of taking on challenging circumstances to produce great outcomes for herself and others around her.”

Ramos Beltran’s art was highlighted earlier this year on a UNI Facebook page that features exceptional work by students in Iowa. Lindsay Dew, her art teacher, said that Ramos Beltran “has an amazing way of taking the world and observations around her and combining it into her projects,” with her Latina heritage and her love of music being some of her biggest inspirations.

“Her flexibility in life and use of media will take her a long way in her art career,” Dew said in a post.

Ramos Beltran said she was inspired by Dew, who got a degree in graphic design before becoming a teacher. She said that she wants to follow a similar path.

Chris Higgins covers the eastern suburbs for the Register. Reach him at [email protected] or 515-423-5146 and follow him on Twitter @chris_higgins_.

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