During the month of March, which is Women’s History Month, #DawsonWritesAmerica will be placing a spotlight on WOMEN MAKING HISTORY, a series acknowledging the very best of us.
Wendy Reynoso has 20+ years experience in the non-profit & global educational field, specifically working with vulnerable children and families. She has a proven track record in non-profit management, leadership coaching, fundraising, strategic planning, and program development. In addition, she has extensive experience in creating, facilitating and leading training sessions.
Today, Reynoso is the Executive Director of Dunbar Early Learning Center, which is located in the Banner Lake community of Hobe Sound, Florida. The center was founded in 1990 by Emmaline Harris, a Hobe Sound resident who wanted to see an abandoned building be utilized for the good of the community. “What she really wanted,” Reynoso stated in her office in between greeting parents and her tiny students, “was for all of those children that were sitting on the laps of their grandparents in the community to be in school just like their white counterparts.” Harris fought all the way to City Hall to make sure the building became a school, and in 1990 it was incorporated.
Currently, the center serves 72 children ages infant to five years, providing comprehensive childcare services and early learning. Another important component of what makes the center work is its affordability. “It’s so that parents can actually go to work and not be stressed about the costs and also so they know that their children are safe for those 10 1/2 hours a day,” according to Reynoso.
Since she’s been there, Reynoso has made sweeping changes that have given the center a facelift on multiple levels. “The first thing I did was to make all of the classrooms age-appropriate,” she recalls. “The second thing I did was hire a director of curriculum and assessment. We can’t help our children if we don’t know what their learning abilities are.” Other changes included improvements to the front of the structure, refreshing the plants and even repaving the driveway. “We needed it to look inviting for parents and families when they visit so they believe that their children are in a place that takes pride in its curriculum and in its appearance.”
Reynoso’s journey to her current position started at a very early age. Her parents, who were born in the Dominican Republic, both immigrated to the United States when they were teenagers. When she was about eight years old, her father left her mom, leaving her to raise six children on her own. This caused her mom to become reliant on organizations like Early Headstart and Upward Bound since it allowed her to be able to work and know that her kids were still learning and being cared for after school hours. Those programs had a major impact on Reynoso’s life. “Understanding how we were constrained financially, and the lengths my mother had to go through to ensure we were given a semblance of normalcy, it was then that I knew I had this heart that was always going to serve the vulnerable, or the underserved.”
HOW ARE YOU MAKING HISTORY?
“I HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO DO SOMETHING THAT HASN’T EXISTED BEFORE IN BANNER LAKE. I HAVE THE CHANCE TO BRING A COMMUNITY TOGETHER USING A HOLISTIC APPROACH FOR REVITALIZING BANNER LAKE COMMUNITY–A CRADLE TO COLLEGE PIPELINE, COMMUNITY WELLNESS PROGRAM– INCLUDING A FOOD BANK PROGRAM AND HELPING RESIDENTS WITH HOUSING NEEDS.” –WENDY REYNOSO
In high school she became a tutor, helping other students in a variety of subjects. In college she joined Upward Bound, recalling all that it gave to her during her early years, and served with the program for five years. “I was very clear I wasn’t going to be a teacher, but I knew I was going to be in education, and that I was going to work alongside or on behalf of teachers. Everything that had been poured into me through Upward Bound and the support system I got from there, I wanted to make sure all children could get that same support. So every opportunity I’ve taken since then has been on behalf of children who need and deserve that support.”
Reynoso has served as Head of School/Executive Director for Storefront Academy Harlem (formerly the Children’s Storefront) and Executive Director of The GO Project. She holds a C.A.S. in Educational Administration from Steinhardt School of Education, New York University, an Ed. M. in Sociology of Education, with a concentration in Educational Policy, from Teachers College, Columbia University, an M.A. in Elementary/Childhood Education from Teachers College, Columbia University, and a B.A. from Oberlin College.
As a consultant, she worked as lead educational facilitator for a teacher-training institute in Sierra Leone, Africa and as an executive coach for founders of two international NGOs (Dominican Republic, Jamaica) providing organizational strategy. Wendy is a founding board member of Storefront Academy Charter School-South Bronx, Storefront Academy Charter School – Harlem and Summer Steps. She also serves on the boards of L.O.V.E. and Yspaniola.
Reynoso has been working on another project that will soon provide even more resources for the community she currently serves. She’s agreed to lead a school being built just down the street from Dunbar called Banner Lake Academy, which is scheduled to open this August, and will provide classes and training for those students in the community who may need more time to acclimate to public school.
When asked how she’s making history, Reynoso paused before answering, and then talked about the history that still will be made in her southern Florida community. “I have the opportunity to do something that hasn’t existed before in Banner Lake. I have the chance to bring a community together using a holistic approach for revitalizing Banner Lake Community–a cradle to college pipeline, community wellness program–including a food bank program and helping residents with housing needs.”