This past Sunday morning my phone rang.  Reyna Isabel Pacheco said, “Hi Janice, I am back from Amsterdam and will be applying to business school next year.”

“Wow,” I said, “Harvard is waiting for you.”

During her college years at Columbia University in New York, Reyna had an outstanding academic record and was a star on the women’s squash team.  She took time off one summer to attend a seminar at the Harvard Business School and then took another course on line.  As an Urban Studies Major, Reyna started a non-profit organization to bring computers to a community in rural Ecuador.

Reyna and I first met when she was a senior at the Preuss School, a charter school for the underserved population in San Diego.  She was a super star on the school squash team and had her eyes on the Ivy League.  Columbia University awarded her a scholarship to play squash, and before she left San Diego she became a Gates Millennium Scholar.

After graduation Reyna pursued women’s squash on the international circuit.  She worked with coaches in Australia and Amsterdam.  Now, two years after working her way into the top one hundred women in squash, she is moving on.

This photo was taken when Reyna graduated from Columbia in 2016.  I am on Reyna’s left and our friend, Phyllis Dorey from Australia, is on her right.  Reyna and Phyllis connected, through me, when Reyna attended Melbourne University in Australia.  They became fast friends and when Reyna returned for coaching after graduation, Phyllis accommodated her.

Reyna, the first in her family to go to college, and the first to become an American citizen, demonstrates what anyone can achieve with a positive outlook.  Reyna takes the knocks with grace and the glory with humility and pride.

More importantly, Reyna has not forgotten where she came from.  She maintains strong ties with her family.  She loves her mother’s Mexican cooking and makes sure she gets strong doses of it every time she is in San Diego.  Reyna is a great role model for her younger sister and brothers.  Her older brother, Jesus, has taken lessons from his younger sibling and became a citizen and is now working to get a contractor’s license.

I could be Reyna’s grandmother, yet when we talk or see each other it is as if we are peers. I am impressed with what she has achieved thus far and I know it is just the beginning. I look at this four foot ten dynamo with pride and say ‘GO GIRL, YOU CAN DO IT!’

I am so glad to have Reyna in my life.

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