Stellar Student profile: Ryan Evans

Ryan Evans keeps a picture of his mother in his wallet. He keeps the picture to remind him of his mother, whom he had to leave behind in the Philippines more than 15 years ago. Evans said it also serves as a reminder of the life he left behind.

Ryan Evans, a senior Applied Communications major, enjoys time with his chihuahua, Mia. Evans emigrated from the Philippines to the United States in 1999. He says he draws inspiration from his family members in the Philippines.

At the age of 10, Evans boarded a plane and said goodbye to the three women who had raised him in order to pursue a better education in the United States. Evans remembers little about the December day when he left the Philippines for the United States in 1999.

The SIUE senior said he has only seen his mother, Grace Evans, his aunt, Adelieda Ondap and his grandmother, Lilia Ondap, once in the past 10 years because of the expensive cost of flying 8,000 miles to the southeastern Asian country.

“If something bad happens to them that’s a two-day plane ride before I can do anything,” said Evans, who was named a Stellar Student by the College of Arts and Sciences. “So I feel powerless all the time.”

He emails or texts his mother, aunt and grandmother each month and talks about what is happening in his personal life or at SIUE, where he will begin taking graduate courses next fall. A Filipino-American, Evans was born in Olangapo, Philippines and raised in Cavite City, a coastal town, which is a 21 mile-drive from Manila.  His parents met while his father, a Navy Sailor, was stationed at the U.S. Naval Base Subic Bay in Olangapo.

In 1999, Evans’ father, Brad Evans traveled to the Philippines to take Ryan to live with him the United States. Evans said he has to fight back tears when saying goodbye to his family.

“Every time I’ve had to leave I’ve had to look away from my family and never know if I could see them again,” Evans said. “I remember my mom going down the line with me. I didn’t cry until I got to the airplane because I to be strong for my family and for myself.”

Evans said his phone conversations with his family keep him going as he pursues a career as a college instructor. Nearly 15 years after leaving the Philippines, Evans will graduate this May with a degree in applied communications.

“Whenever I have a tough time, I always ask myself, ‘What would my mom say? What would my aunt say? What would be my grandma say in this situation?’” Evans said.

Evans, who has already been accepted into SIUE’s applied communications graduate program, said working as an instructor or teacher will give him the opportunity to travel back to the Philippines or other countries during the summer. The 25-year old Godfrey resident said he also hopes to earn enough income to visit his family in the Philippines more often.

“When I think of the Philippines, it’s a different atmosphere a different feel,” Evans said.  “I know forever in my heart that’s my home. Knowing that makes me want to travel the world because it’s a shame some people never leave the state they’re from. Knowing what the world has to offer there’s always an inner calling in me to travel the world and go on an adventure. That’s the kind of life I want to live in the future.”

Originally a political science major, Evans switched to applied communications after taking a Theories in Advanced Interpersonal Communication course taught by SIUE assistant professor Jocelyn Brown-DeGroot.

“I absolutely fell in love with the whole concept – with the class,” Evans said. “After taking that one class, the way Josie taught it, changed my entire point of view of academia; it was no longer school or work. I found my passion.”

During the past two years, Evans has assisted Lewis and Clark Community College instructor Jeff Harrison in helping judge class presentations for speech communications classes. Brown-DeGroot said Evans shows natural leadership skills.

“He’s always willing to learn and he’s always willing to ask questions so he can keep learning. He knows how to ask the right questions,” Brown-DeGroot said. “The students listen to him when he participates in class. They respect his opinions and experiences.”

After spending much of his childhood in the Philippines, Evans said those experiences and understanding the differences in lifestyle helped him gain a greater appreciation for the career and education opportunities available to him in the United States.

“We take so many things like water, Wi-Fi and daily transportation for granted,” Evans said. “Not everyone has all these luxuries in their daily lives. It really humbled me because I’ve been lucky enough to have a father that gave so much of his time and effort so I could be positioned for this lifestyle. I’m so thankful for this opportunity and I don’t plan on wasting it.”



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