Ramona Reyes’ passion for creating change started when she was a Buckeye and still drives her in multiple leadership positions within the Columbus community.
Reyes, a human resources specialist at Nationwide, is an attentive aunt, a member of Big Brothers Big Sisters and the vice president of the Board of Education for Columbus City Schools.
“I like to talk; I like to create change; I like to share the experiences and the challenges I’ve had,” said Reyes, 41. “I like to learn from other people.”
Senate Bill 5 and the notorious state budget cuts have kept Reyes busy with her obligation to the Board of Education. In an interview proceeding the release of Gov. John Kasich’s budget proposal and the passing of Senate Bill 5, she said the bill would affect them and they are working to face changes and budget cuts.
“The whole state is going to experience some changes,” Reyes said before the passing of Senate Bill 5. “We’ve been very proactive in doing some cost-cutting measures not only due to our levy process, but knowing that cuts were going to come. So, we’re hoping that we don’t have to go too far.”
Fellow board member Mike Wiles described Reyes as “open, honest and not afraid to vote the way she believes.”
Board of Education President Carol Perkins didn’t spare any kind words when describing Reyes.
“She is a tremendous individual,” Perkins said. “She is a hard worker; she’s very bright. She’s articulate. She’s just really passionate about being on the Board and serving Columbus City Schools.”
Reyes was elected to the school board in 2009 and elected vice president in November. She said she thought the experience would be an extension of leadership roles she’d fulfilled in the past and that she “wanted to do more for the kids.”
This leadership mentality has not always been present in her, however. Reyes said when she first came to OSU, she was a shy freshman.
Originally from Weslaco, Texas, Reyes decided to leave her family of nine to come to Columbus for school after being offered a Campbell Soup Scholarship. This decision was a surprise because she knew so little about OSU.
Reyes said her first time seeing Brutus Buckeye during a football game against Texas A&M was confusing.
“I was like, ‘What is that guy? Dude, what is that head?’ I didn’t know what that was,” Reyes said. “Obviously I know that now because I am a Buckeye nut.”
When she’s not working for Nationwide or the School Board, Reyes loves dancing, athletics, watching Buckeye sports and attending as many events around the city as she can.
Reyes said she has learned to be competitive from her longtime involvement in sports, which is what lead her to her leadership roles. These roles flourished during her time at OSU.
“I started with Alpha Psi Lambda my freshman year, and then I think by my sophomore year I was vice president, and my junior year I was president of the organization,” Reyes said.
Her involvement with the fraternity continues with football-viewing parties at members’ houses every year and hosting an orphan Thanksgiving for students unable to go home for the holiday.
While in school, one of her fraternity brothers got Reyes involved in politics. He tried to persuade her to be a commissioner for the Ohio Commission of Hispanic/Latino Affairs during her time with the Undergraduate Student Government.
She resisted the offer for some time, telling her friend that she was not cut out for it.
“I’m like, ‘I’m not political. I will give you my opinion; you may not like that. I’m a straightforward person. I like to do what’s right,'” Reyes said. “He said that’s exactly what he was looking for.”
She said she still doesn’t think she is completely political but that she does understand more about the processes of how things get done.
Her active student lifestyle presented her with plenty of opportunities while at OSU. One was the chance to be on a panel that interviewed new candidates for the dean’s position. She did not have the opportunity to interview President E. Gordon Gee, and when she met him this was the first thing she brought up.
“He ended up meeting me like his first or second day there at Ohio State, and I ended up kind of grilling him with questions about why weren’t we involved in his election,” Reyes said.
Gee said he did remember Reyes.
“I remember those questions in my first days on campus,” said Gee.
Other significant details included experiencing her first snow and going to school with Jimmy Jackson and Eddie George, who she says are her favorite OSU athletes.
“It’s very hard to be a die-hard Buckeye,” Reyes said. “It’s like heart attack, glee, heart attack, glee. I’ve got to warn people around me about how excited I get, I have spilled drinks on people around me because I get excited.”