Labor and Economic Opportunity
For 40 years, Monica Reyes has been a local and statewide champion for education and leadership within the Hispanic community and helping to shape future leaders in Michigan.
Reyes, a married mother of three with 11 grandchildren and a brand-new great-grandson, was reappointed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to the Hispanic Latino Commission of Michigan in December 2019, which aims to help Michigan Hispanics strive in education. Reyes currently serves on several boards in the Saginaw community, including the Board of Directors for Great Lakes Bay Health Centers, the Hispanic Latino Commission of Michigan, the Hispanic Latino Covid Task Force and the Governors Protect Michigan LatinX Committee for Access & Equity.
She will be honored as a local hero for her services to the community, receiving the 2021 Saginaw NAACP Saginaw Hero during the 50th Saginaw NAACP Freedom Fund event on Sunday, Sept. 26.
"I grew up in a Mexican family, living and making things work in an all Anglo community, which brought many challenges that our parents worked hard to help us navigate while keeping our Latino culture and values," said Reyes. "My father had a third-grade education, and my mother had a sixth-grade education. We were expected to work in fields picking cherries, pickles, tomatoes, sugar beets, wherever my father could get the kids to work in the summer while school was out, but my parents made sure that we attended school each year and made sure we graduated from high school."
The first in her family to graduate from college, Reyes' father taught her education comes with great responsibility.
"He always reminded me that I must speak for those who couldn't speak for themselves. This is how my work in advocacy and community service began," said Reyes.
She started with the Salvation Army Christmas program with her dad and kids. She then worked with Habitat for Humanity, Girl Scouts of America, Tri-City SER and more throughout the years. Reyes' most recent work occurred when she founded the Great Lakes Bay Hispanic Leadership Institute over 12 years ago.
"One of the goals is to groom individuals into leadership skills that they already have and enhance their skills. The program was designed to help individuals build their careers, their family lives and help them find their passion while becoming community activists," said Reyes. "There are many examples of involvement in the community and career advancement as a result of completing the program."
She said she is extremely honored and humbled to receive such an important award.
"I am grateful for the recognition the NAACP will honor me with. I'm sure there are so many others that are just as deserving, but in honor of my parents, my husband, my family, and my children, I accept this honor," said Reyes.