Reyna Reyes’ passion for community service stems from her childhood. When her family emigrated from Mexico, they often struggled, but Reyes remembers her parents’ perseverance and how her father dreamed big for her and her brother. She was the first generation in her family to graduate from high school and college — first becoming a nurse through McLennan Community College, then earning a bachelor’s at Tarleton State University — and now Reyes is in the MBA program at Baylor University.
Reyes recently returned to the health care realm as the clinical manager of two Central Texas offices of Advanced Pain Care. Outside of work she volunteers at Avance Waco, Communities in Schools and Rapoport Academy, where her son, Jordan, goes to school. She’s a natural advocate for families — serving, educating and providing the types of resources her family lacked. She sees Waco as a place where people help each other, where businesses and nonprofits and arts groups and schools and health care providers work together for the common good.
“It’s all connected,” she said.
WACOAN: Tell me about yourself.
Reyes: I’m a first-generation high school and college graduate. My family immigrated to Waco from Mexico in 1978. I consider myself a true Wacoan. I love Waco, and I feel that everything I do, whether it’s at work or at home, I’m always mindful of our community. I try to instill that awareness in my son.
I went to University High School. We grew up in an impoverished area. My dad died when he was 38, but he dreamed big. I remember he wanted his children to go to college. That’s what motivates me to push forward, even now. I’m in the online MBA program at Baylor University. I think about what my dad didn’t have the opportunity to achieve. I do this for my dad. Or he’s doing this through me.
My mom worked three or four jobs at one time while I was in high school. I helped bring up my brother. My mother was taken away by immigration a few times. But she persevered and always made sure my brother and I had what we needed.
WACOAN: What did you do after graduating from high school?
Reyes: I went to nursing school at McLennan Community College. I worked as a trauma nurse at [Baylor Scott & White Hillcrest Medical Center] for eight years.
I went back to school and got my bachelor’s degree from Tarleton State University. I started to do a lot of volunteer work. I enjoyed plugging people in with resources, especially in impoverished areas. I wanted to become an advocate. I got involved with Communities in Schools and Avance. I met Jessica Attas, who is now [Director of Public Policy at the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce] but was serving as the executive director of Avance at the time. I was just about to graduate from Tarleton when she recruited me to work for Avance. I worked as the assistant director for a year.
WACOAN: Then you took on this position at Advanced Pain Care.
Reyes: Yes, I’ve only been here for a few months. It’s coming back to my health care experience, but the mindset is a little different. Although I was only at Avance for a year, my passion lies in serving others.
WACOAN: What does your position at Advanced Pain Care entail?
Reyes: I manage two clinics, one in Killeen and one in Waco. I manage daily operations, everything from [human resources] to making sure we’re not flooding in the building.
WACOAN: How did your work with Avance prepare you for this position?
Reyes: Avance gave me the opportunity to learn how to manage a team. There are all different job descriptions, so you have to learn each position to become a resource for everyone.
WACOAN: Are you still involved with Avance?
Reyes: Very much so. Right now we’re preparing for our gala in October. I’m the chair for the silent auction this year. I always look forward to the gala, but it’s a lot of stress the last couple of weeks.
WACOAN: What other organizations are you involved in?
Reyes: Communities in Schools. I help with their Over the Edge [fundraiser]. I’m involved in my son’s school, Rapoport Academy. I’m a [Guardian/Educator Organization] there.
One day I went to Jordan’s school, and there was a child who broke my heart. I’ve prayed for this child. He was talking to the teacher, and they both looked upset. He didn’t look like he understood what she was saying. So I went up and spoke to him in Spanish. I know parents come to America for a better life. My family did. But the kids have to deal with these situations by themselves. Avance is great because it teaches people the language.
WACOAN: You were also a part of LeadershipPlenty. Tell me more about the program.
Reyes: It’s an opportunity, sponsored by the Waco Foundation, to build leadership skills. They invite people that are already working in the community. They give you a lot of information and have special speakers. I still go back to my binder and refer to examples.
WACOAN: How did you get involved with LeadershipPlenty?
Reyes: I was nominated by Jessica Attas. It was an amazing experience. We discussed the issues in Waco, from poverty to racial tension, and how we can resolve them. We learned how to manage conflict resolution and how to be diplomatic.
We also learned it’s all connected. It’s so important to build relationships. Sometimes businesses don’t see that. They don’t see that employees who are involved in the community benefit the business.
WACOAN: How does community involvement make you a better employee?
Reyes: You’re more aware of the reasons people do what they do. There’s poverty and homelessness and racial tensions.
WACOAN: What fuels your passion for educating and serving the community?
Reyes: I think back to when my family struggled. My parents didn’t speak English, and there weren’t as many resources then. It’s important for people to have the information they need so they can make decisions.
WACOAN: How does your community service tie into your background in health care?
Reyes: I think education ties to health care. It lowers obesity and mortality rates. That’s why I’m passionate about Avance. You teach parents to be their child’s first teacher. Avance has a health care component that educates people about vaccinations and other issues. It prevents students from missing school, which could cause them to fail, which could cause them to drop out. Latinos have the highest rate of high school dropouts in Texas among all minorities. That makes it important for families to be educated.
WACOAN: How do you make time for your community involvement?
Reyes: Sometimes I ask myself that too. I think I end up working through the night and not sleeping. That’s not healthy. You want to finish your work and your studying. You want to help your kid get ready for school. You need to manage your budget at home. Before you know it, it’s 2 a.m., and you have to wake up and do it all again at 5 or 6 a.m. At any given moment, if I stopped, I would crash. Then we’d all be in trouble.
I’m also in the MBA program at Baylor. Truthfully, this is my second time to start the program. I started it last year, but my strengths are not in math. There were classes you had to take together: stats and financial accounting. That was a struggle for me. Fortunately, Baylor changed how that’s set up. Now you can take those classes separately. I’m restarting in a few weeks.
Growing up in Waco, especially as poor as we were, my dream was to graduate from Baylor. It still means something to me. I can visualize my dad walking around Baylor campus.
WACOAN: What are your goals after finishing your MBA?
Reyes: I’m hoping to go into hospital administration. I’d love to get involved in health care administration because I know a lot of what’s done at clinics and hospitals stems from the decisions made in Washington, [D.C.]. Having firsthand knowledge of doctors and specialists and the needs of the community could help me do that.
WACOAN: While you were growing up, did you ever think you’d be where you are now?
Reyes: No. I remember cleaning offices like this one with my mom. It was work, work, work and do your schoolwork. It was a big deal when I graduated from high school because my mom didn’t make it through middle school. My dad didn’t graduate from high school because he dropped out to work in Mexico.
WACOAN: Now that you’re in this new position, what does your daily schedule look like?
Reyes: Drop Jordan off at school, come to work, study in the evenings. When I was at Avance, I could have lunch with Jordan. I take Jordan to his soccer practices and games. I cook dinner but not always. Fortunately, my husband helps out. If it wasn’t for my husband, I’m not sure if I would have accomplished much of anything. He knows my heart and what I care about. He makes it all possible.
WACOAN: What does your husband do?
Reyes: Josh works over at dispatch at Sherwin-Williams. He’s been at the distribution center for more than 20 years.
WACOAN: How did you two meet?
Reyes: There was a Mervyn’s here in Waco. I was working there when he first saw me. I had just started at [McLennan Community College]. He managed to get my number somehow, but I don’t know how that went down. He set up a date — it was a blind date for me — and the rest is history. We’ve been married for 20 years.
He was different than the other men I’d met. He is from Mexia, laid-back, country. He’s genuine, and his family is rooted in faith. I loved that.
WACOAN: How does Josh balance you as a parent and person?
Reyes: He is the more patient one out of the two of us. I am more of the disciplinarian. He’s the fun one. I’m usually stressed out, so I forget about having fun. He’s my balance. If I come home wired, he tells me to relax and unplug. He reminds me to focus on being home.
WACOAN: How do you unwind? Do you have a quiet time?
Reyes: No, there is no quiet time. My only quiet time is when the day ends. My husband always goes to bed before I do. I’ll pray or read a book. I used to have a dedicated time to read the Bible. Proverbs always seem to speak to me.
WACOAN: What do your mornings look like?
Reyes: My mornings are always a rush. I get up and get out the door. Hopefully, I get coffee because I usually skip lunch. That’s not healthy. Right now, I’m trying to look at ways to go through my day in a healthier way.
I like to work out. That’s time to myself. I love Zumba at the YMCA with Michelle Williams.
WACOAN: How do you find time to exercise?
Reyes: After work. Zumba starts at 7 p.m. I’ll stay here to finish work and make Zumba. I try not to do that more than twice a week.
WACOAN: What type of calendar do you use? How do you keep everything organized?
Reyes: My [cellphone]. I have a calendar at home and one for work. Typically, what’s on my calendar is on my phone. Sometimes I’ll send calendar invites to my husband. That way he will give me another reminder. He double-checks me.
WACOAN: Tell me about your son, Jordan.
Reyes: Every child is a blessing, but Jordan was a miracle. For years we tried to have children, but we couldn’t. We went to fertility doctors for almost two years. We decided that it wasn’t going to happen. We started the adoption process here in Waco. My husband and I were in Chicago, and I started to feel sick. I’m not one to get nauseated. I’m a big breakfast person, and at the hotel we had this huge breakfast. I could smell the breakfast from our hotel room. It made me so sick. When I told my husband, he immediately said I was pregnant. I told him he was silly. I took some tests that came out positive, but I still didn’t believe it. We came back to Waco and saw the doctor, and there [Jordan] was.
WACOAN: How would you describe Jordan’s personality?
Reyes: Jordan is like a little adult. My husband and I have always talked to him the way we talk to one another. We’ve always explained any vocabulary that he doesn’t understand, so his vocabulary is extensive. He’s very smart. He has a heart for others.
WACOAN: He’s seen your heart for others. What are some things you try to teach Jordan?
Reyes: He asks all types of questions, even about politics. He watches the news and knows what’s going on. I teach him about what’s appropriate and inappropriate to say. It’s important for him to know that everyone comes from different places and has different struggles. He should be mindful of that. If there’s a child that comes in with messy hair, there may be a reason for that. He’s not just a dirty kid. He knows there are kids who struggle with language and poverty. He knows that there are kids who may not have had dinner the night before. They may have not slept well because they don’t have a permanent residence. It was important for him to be aware because I struggled through those same things.
There were days when I missed school because I was in the Caritas line. Jordan is not going to face those struggles, but it’s important for him to know some kids do. I think of him as a future leader. I hope he will be.
WACOAN: Is there anything about motherhood that has surprised you?
Reyes: How vulnerable you become.
WACOAN: What does your family enjoy doing in Waco?
Reyes: My husband and I are huge small business supporters. We know that keeping money in Waco builds this city. Even when we go out to eat, we try to go to locally owned places. We go to Cameron Park Zoo and the Mayborn Museum. I’m a sharer, so I’ll take pictures and tag them on Facebook. I’ll check in places. Then people ask questions: ‘What time are they open?’ When you start promoting Waco, people start asking questions.
I’m a foodie, so I like to try new places. We’re excited about the food trucks and Hey Sugar [Candy Store and More] downtown. Their ice cream is phenomenal. The Sic ’Em on a Chicken at Milo is a favorite. We love the Waco Downtown Farmers Market.
WACOAN: You’ve noticed the growth in Waco.
Reyes: Yes, even on Elm [Avenue]. We lived in that area, and it’s completely different. My mom lives two or three blocks from [McLane] Stadium. That’s where I grew up. Back then it was called Frogtown.
There’s been so much change, and I think it has to do with nonprofits coming in and identifying needs.
WACOAN: Do you think Wacoans are extra willing to help one another?
Reyes: Yes. People realize that everything is connected. If I don’t help you, then maybe you couldn’t make the rent or feed your child. You could become involved in crime. Property values decrease. It seems random, but it’s all connected.
WACOAN: What have you learned about balancing work, life and family?
Reyes: It’s all connected. I don’t think staying balanced is my priority. I try to maintain and build relationships. I’m plugging people in. I think it’s important for us to share our experiences with one another. The more we share with one another, the better we are.