Raymonde Reyes is no stranger to life’s difficulties. However, her struggles drew a path toward her eventual career and true passion in life.
As a program coordinator for Miami-Dade County Public Schools’ We Rise Educational Village, the 57-year-old child advocate makes sure the families of children in Liberty City public schools have the necessities to live and the proper health resources to thrive in both their education and personal lives.
The program encompasses almost all of Liberty City, spanning from I-95 to NW 27th Avenue and from NW 73rd Street to NW 46th Street.
A partnership of more than two dozen community groups, We Rise was conceived by T. Willard Fair, president of the Urban League of Greater Miami, which helps subsidize the program.
“I wake up every day and thank God because I feel honored to have the privilege to assist others,” said Reyes. “It’s a beautiful thing to be able to say I’ve done something.”
Reyes grew up in a dysfunctional family and suffered years of abuse. She emigrated from Haiti with her father at age 5.
She doesn’t know why, but her father moved her from place to place starting in Canada and ending up in New York. In search of more balance in her life, she reunited with her Dominican mother, who had moved from Haiti to settle in Puerto Rico.
Reyes found stability at age 16 when she married her now former husband. She became a mother at 20 and was determined to provide a safe environment for her children. The family ultimately landed in Miami, where her life quickly changed.
Reyes’s children understandably became the primary focus of her life as she became involved with their school and other activities.
When the principal at her children’s school offered her a job helping other mothers engage in their children’s education, Reyes jumped at the chance.
She says her struggles have allowed her to recognize troubled families and children because she feels a connection to them.
Her efforts to inspire others never stopped with her job. At 45, Reyes completed her bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies at Florida Memorial University with a minor in humanities.
“I always loved my education and I had to give that example to my children,” she said. “They had to see me walk across the stage.”
Truly happy in her work, Reyes says she feels like a rich woman.
“It is just truly gratifying to give these children and their families the proper resources to move forward,” she said. “I really feel like my life is fulfilled because if more parents can make more informed decisions, it really makes a difference.”
Shantel Sanchez is an NBCU fellow at Florida International University.