Robert Ram was an all-star baseball player and an active boy when he was diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer. A tumor was growing in his left leg.
At 12, his leg was amputated above the knee.
He didn't know if he would ever play sports again, but his family encouraged him to try.
"I told myself, when I restart eighth grade I want to be able to walk back to school on my own, not in a wheelchair or with crutches,” Ram, now 20, recalled Friday.
In high school, after chemotherapy and multiple surgeries in connection with his Ewing sarcoma diagnosis, the Rancho Santa Margarita young man went on to compete in four years of water polo, three years of swimming and one year of wrestling.
He also became a volunteer at Children’s Hospital of Orange County, speaking to other young patients coping with amputations.
Meanwhile, Ram's long-term goal was to follow in his father’s footsteps by becoming a sheriff’s deputy.
On Friday, he began that journey — and his early success marked a first for Orange County.
Ram became the only amputee to graduate the Orange County Sheriff’s Department's Correctional Services Assistant Academy. Along with the rest of his class, Ram graduated Friday at the Katella Tactical Training Center in Orange.
“His heart and determination, his pride in himself and in his class was amazing to see throughout the last 10 weeks,” OCSD trainer Deputy Will Griffin said.
Ram is too young to become a deputy, like his father, who served in Los Angeles County. He hopes the jail assistant job will prepare him for that future role.
Griffin thought Ram would have no trouble making it through the 28-week, more intensive deputy academy.
"He's definitely opened the door for other people, that you can do whatever you want to do," Griffin said.