A Magnolia Scholar Story: Alex Reyes

by on June 22, 2017

Maybe it was when she gave her family a tour of the Wake Forest campus that first time. Or maybe it was the day she first walked into the Manhattan headquarters of PriceWaterhouseCoopers as an intern. Alex Reyes isn’t quite sure when the enormity of her family’s story and her place in it first struck her, but it is more resonant than ever.

Before they had met, Reyes’ parents moved separately from their native Dominican Republic so their descendants wouldn’t have to haul buckets of water for two round-trip miles each day. It is now fair to say Alex is more than carrying her load and has plans to keep doing so.

“Immigrants tend to be criminalized, and obviously, that’s not true,” she said. “Politicians should realize that immigrants want to come to the U.S. for a better opportunity – especially like my father – for their children. We’re hard-working, and we just want a better chance at education.”

The native of the New York City metropolitan area was just about to head to her high school graduation ceremony in 2014 when she opened an email that detailed the extent of her Magnolia Scholarship to Wake Forest. The news made a happy day even more joyful.

“Out of all the schools I applied to, Wake Forest was the only one that had a program for First Generation students,” she said. “That was surprising. It was also surprising to see how much they had offered me in scholarships, too.”

Upon arriving, Reyes took a deep-dive into faculty-mentored research in Sociology that landed her a summer opportunity in Birmingham, AL, centered around immigration legislation. She spoke with activists, lawyers, police officers and anybody else who would talk, and she presented her findings on campus a few months later.

“It made me feel like my work was meaningful,” she said. “Even if I wasn’t helping the cause directly, I had a voice and I was helping the voiceless have a voice in all of this.”

Mindful of strangers’ philanthropy and her parents’ struggles, Reyes remains determined to maximize her time on a weekly basis. She has volunteered as a tutor for children in Math and English through El Buen Pastor, a local nonprofit; mentored disabled children through Helping Overcome Physical Expectations, a student group for which she has served as treasurer; chaired the campus membership efforts of Nourish International, which funneled support to Rwanda; remotely mentored a Rwandan high school student; and helped introduce three Chinese students to Wake Forest.

When not directly helping the world, she has seen it. During a semester in Barcelona, Spain, Reyes was able to travel on weekends to Madrid, Rome, London, Amsterdam, Montserrat, Morocco and the Sahara Desert, where she rode a camel and saw the sun rise.

She worked for PriceWaterhouseCoopers in 2016 and earned a return a year later. The news that her daughter had an opportunity in a promising career field moved Reyes’ mom to tears.

The scene is likely to repeat itself in 2018, when Reyes anticipates graduating with a degree in Sociology and a Business concentration.

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