The story of one woman, 'eight kids, two degrees and many sleepless nights'

ASU alumna Ruby Reyes tell the story of overcoming adversity to complete her degrees

Young, Latina and faced with adversity, Ruby Reyes graduated from ASU with a master’s in educational leadership while simultaneously raising eight children before the age of 30.

Reyes grew up in an impoverished area in downtown Phoenix where she had her home broken into five times and endured many social and financial hardships. Still, she pursued her education in order to obtain a greater life; it became the sole priority in her household.

“I remember my parents telling me, 'school is really important – you must continue,'" Reyes said.

She used their advice as motivation to persevere. 

However, in March of 2012, Reyes’s commitment to her education was put to the test. Her father, the backbone and sole provider of their household, survived an accident at work which left him disabled for the rest of his life.

“I took on my father’s role and responsibilities, which meant I had to provide food for my family and a roof above our heads,” Reyes said.

It wasn't easy, Reyes said, especially since it happened during the last two months of her undergraduate collegiate career. Having two younger sisters depending on her made the situation even more difficult. 

Reyes said that without the support she received from her family and the strong cultural values embedded in their lives, she would not have been able to be the first in her family to obtain her bachelor’s and master’s degree. 

“I come from a household of undocumented parents who left everything they had to give us a better life,” she said.

Reyes said she wants to give back to her community as a result of this. As an alumna of the Hispanic Mother-Daughter Program, or HMDP, she said it is important for young Latinas to remain determined, and she encourages other women to do the same despite the obstacles that may arise.

Everything in her life appeared to be getting better as she finished her undergraduate degree with honors and was hired at North High School as a full-time Spanish teacher.

Then in 2016, Reyes received an unexpected call that changed her life.

“I had one hour to pick up my five nieces and nephews. I didn’t know what was going on, but I did know that I had just became the legal guardian of five children, plus three of my own," Reyes said. "Who would have thought that raising eight children at such a young age with no financial support from the government would be so hard?”

This additional setback did not stop Reyes from applying for her master’s that same summer. She decided to further her education to make a positive impact on the lives of vulnerable families. 

“Two years, eight children and many sleepless nights later, I now have a master’s degree,” Reyes said.

Reyes credits her resilience, strong cultural, family bonds and the other HMDP alumna for allowing her to follow her dreams.

“HMDP did not only provide me with the resources I needed to make it to college, but they helped me establish a wonderful bond with my mother and allowed me to understand the importance of embracing my culture as a young Latina,” Reyes said.

Leslie Zacarias, a current high school senior and student of the HMDP program, said that Reyes’ story inspired her.

“She made me feel that if she was able to overcome such difficult times, then I can too," Zacarias said.

Alejandra Arana, a freshman studying computer information systems at ASU, said she felt empowered by Reyes’ ability to overcome adversity.

Reyes' advice to the young Latinas in the HMDP is to “make a difference, follow your heart, let others know that your culture is more than just a word. It represents our history, beliefs, traditions and most importantly, our success.”

Reyes said her experiences proved her persistence and ability to overcome any and every obstacle with the intention of making a positive impact on the lives of future generations.

She said being a teacher allows her to play a crucial role in society by letting students know that by recognizing the significance of their culture and remaining determined, anything is possible.

“I have always said that culture is power, and power is caring,” Reyes said. 


Reach the reporter at ifrancor@asu.edu or follow @ifrancorubio on Twitter.

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