In 2020, Cecilia (Ceci) Reyes ‘12 returned to Govs as director of student activities, ninth grade dean, Spanish teacher, dorm parent, coach, and co-advisor. She was recently named head coach of the varsity girls basketball team.
Before joining Govs, Reyes worked as a regional account manager at Reed’s Incorporated and spent a season playing for the National Women’s Basketball League in the Dominican Republic. Her passion for coaching and youth development was reignited when she joined the Brooks School girls basketball coaching staff in the 2019-20 season, ultimately winning the NEPSAC Class B Championship. Reyes holds a bachelor’s of arts in business and psychology from Merrimack College.
Govs hired you during a global pandemic that placed a considerable burden on education. Tell us more about this year.
The theme of the year for me has been trying to make the best of every situation. We are incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity and resources to return to campus, have in-person classes, afternoon programs, and function as a boarding school while many students and teachers worldwide are still trying to make things work remotely.
Coming back to a place like Govs that values community as much as it does, the toughest thing to work through has been social distancing. I look forward to the opportunity for us to gather as a community in the Wilke Center for the Performing Arts, Chapel, Alumni Gym, and to do simple things like high-five a student or give them a hug. It’s been a challenge, but everyone’s health and safety are the number one priority, so we will continue to make the best of it.
What drew you back to Govs?
The community! Working at any other boarding school would not have been as special because no other place feels like home as much as Govs. It has been amazing having the opportunity to work alongside so many of the teachers, coaches, dorm parents, faculty, and staff who were here when I was a student and played a major role in my time at the Academy. Govs helped shape me into the person I am today, so having the opportunity to do the same for the next generation of students is incredibly humbling.
What was it like to go from student to faculty?
There have been several moments this year when I’ve been speaking with a group of students and had the opportunity to relate to them by recalling some of my past experiences at Govs. I appreciate being able to connect with them in that sense because it’s always great to have the chance to work with someone who understands where you’re coming from and who knows what it’s like to be in your shoes.
While all of the faculty and staff look exactly the same from my time as a Govs student, it’s been amazing to see how much all of the faculty kids have grown! Some who I used to babysit are now students at Govs. Every time I see them, I flash back to 10 years ago, and it makes me wonder if some of my colleagues do the same when they see me!
Tell us about some formative experiences at Govs when you were a student, and how do they inform the way you approach your job?
Everything about the Govs experience was new to me. I grew up in Lawrence, Massachusetts, surrounded by Spanish-speaking people who looked just like me. From the moment I arrived at the school, I knew that it would be an experience that would challenge me to step out of my comfort zone, try new things, and explore different perspectives. I absolutely loved and appreciated having the opportunity to try new sports, classes, food, and activities—and that’s become a significant part of who I am today. I am constantly looking for opportunities to try new things.
Life at Govs is never boring for students as they are extremely busy and always have something going on — daily academic commitments, afternoon activities, clubs, study hall, etc. This has also shaped who I am as a person — I wear several hats and participate in many things. At Govs, I was junior then senior class president, captain of my basketball team, a peer advisor, tour guide, and a proctor in a ninth grade dorm. At Merrimack College, I was captain of the basketball team, an RA, the Spanish tutor on campus, founded a fundraising organization for the Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence, babysat for faculty members, and I had a program on the radio show with some classmates. People would often ask how I managed to do so many things at once, and I would always refer back to my time at Govs when that was the norm!
You walked onto the women’s basketball team at Merrimack College and were named captain in your senior year. Tell us about that experience and how it will impact your coaching at Govs.
Having the opportunity to play college basketball was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. It helped shape me into the leader and competitor I am today. As a team, we had to make many sacrifices to be able to be at our best and compete at a high level: 5 a.m. lifts, extra study hall sessions, academic meetings with coaches, conditioning and film sessions after a long day of classes and practice—the list goes on. Being named captain after one season on the team was a very proud moment for me. I appreciated that my coaches and teammates trusted me to lead our team through the season, and it made me more confident not only on the court but as a leader and as a person.
There are so many things about the Merrimack experience that impact my coaching: how to be a great teammate, motivate and inspire others, and show my team that I appreciate them. I learned a lot about building the type of culture on a team that encourages everyone to be their absolute best and play any and every role needed for the greater good of the team.
In 2018 you signed a contract in the National Women’s Basketball League in the Dominican Republic. What was that like — from a professional perspective and also returning to the country where your parents were born?
Playing basketball professionally was a childhood dream that I had given up after tearing my ACL the summer leading into my senior year of college. With the support of my team, family, and friends, I was able to forgo surgery and rehab my way back onto the court. Just a few short weeks after my senior season at Merrimack ended, I got the call to play in the Dominican Republic! I was extremely grateful for every day that I could spend there — it was a dream I didn’t believe would come to fruition.
Rumor has it that you are a big fan of the Alfond Dining Hall. Do you recall a menu favorite from your student days? How about now?
The dining hall is truly one of my favorite places on campus! As a student, my favorite was the chicken parm. After dinner, I would always bring some back to the dorm to make a chicken parm sandwich as a late-night "snack."
This Fall, I tried the chicken tikka masala in the dining hall for the first time, and now it is not only one of my favorite dining hall meals but also one of my favorites in general; it’s my go-to for take-out. They now know me by name at Mr. India in Newburyport! I also love the BBQ pulled pork with pigeon peas rice and plantains, the salmon, the haddock, the calamari, the dumplings — I could go on and on. I remember being so upset that the new wing was added to the dining hall the summer after I graduated, but now, I love that I’m back and can enjoy all of my old and new favorites.