Elisa Reyes: They Told Me It Was Impossible And I Did It Anyway

An Interview With Candice Georgiadis

Candice Georgiadis
Authority Magazine

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One is to believe in yourself. You’ve always had the power. It all depends on you. If you believe in yourself, I promise you, you will do it, you will get it, you will achieve your goal.

As a part of our series about “dreamers who ignored the naysayers and did what others said was impossible”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Elisa Reyes.

Elisa Reyes first came to the United States from Honduras at 17 years old, and, despite a limited grasp of English, she was eager to continue her schooling and practice medicine, inspired by a lifesaving heart surgery she had as a child. Today, Elisa is working in reception at a breast clinic, plans to get a master’s degree, and she also serves as a Youth Leader at the Brave House, a nonprofit based in Brooklyn that provides services to young immigrant women and gender-expansive youth.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to ‘get to know you’ a bit better. Can you tell us your ‘backstory’?

I am 25 years old and was born and raised in Honduras — when I was 17 years old, I immigrated here to the United States, looking for opportunity and looking for my family. That’s where everything started. I started a case with immigration soon after and then I started taking ESL classes in order to learn the language and get more familiar with it, since I didn’t know it previously. Months later, I decided to go to college and get my degree. Almost a year ago, I received my bachelor’s in psychology with a minor in human service. I’m really happy about that.

Now, I work in the reception desk at a breast center, which is a clinic that is part of the hospital. People who go there work with surgeons who specialize in breast cancer. I also serve as a Youth Leader at the Brave House, a local nonprofit that supports young immigrants with services like community events, legal advocacy, and English classes.

Are you working on any new or exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Yeah! I’m trying to go back to school and get my master’s degree. I haven’t decided in what yet, but I’m really thinking about being a social worker or marriage and family therapist. I’m on the path.

Helping others is a privilege for me. Helping others nourishes the soul with experiences, and the heart with happiness and satisfaction. Giving help to someone who needs it takes us moments that help us see life a little differently, helps us improve as a person and motivates us to grow. Helping others leads us to be a change not only in the life of the person we are helping, but also in the life of oneself and in the lives of the people around us as spectators. Since we can influence many lives and motivate others to lend a hand to those who need it with little or a lot. Being able to influence people’s lives in a positive way and with the sole purpose of providing them with support to get ahead is one of the reasons that motivates me to continue studying.

In your opinion, what do you think makes your company or organization stand out from the crowd?

The Brave House for me is as the name says, a home. A home where a group of young women find support for our needs, where our opinions are valid, accepted and valuable. The Brave House is a place where you can see the brilliance, strength and potential that you as a woman have. Where they help you to be the woman you want to be. Where they motivate you and help you along your way to find your dreams and goals. The Brave House is more than an organization, Brave House is a family.

Ok, thank you for that. I’d like to jump to the main focus of this interview. Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us? What was your idea? What was the reaction of the naysayers? And how did you overcome that?

Oh, there were so many times. One that I remember was when I decided to go to school to get my bachelor’s degree. Many people were saying a psychology degree was going to be really hard because English wasn’t my first language — it’s very competitive. There were so many naysayers, but I did it.

In the end, how were all the naysayers proven wrong? :-)

I did it, even though they told me it was impossible. I graduated Magna Cum Laude, and even though I haven’t gotten to where I want to go, I know that I have achieved a lot up until today. I keep trying, even though I hear so many “no”s, I keep trying. I think that word — ”no” — has pushed me to where I am right now.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

First of all, I thank God, my mom, Fany Reyes, and my whole family for all the help and support they have given me to this day, and for the support they will continue to give me. I also thank Rotarian Gift of Life, because without their help I would not have had a second chance at life. And finally, a big thank-you to Careen Shannon, my lawyer. Without her help, I don’t think I would have made the decision to go to school, because when you are an immigrant in this country, you don’t have that many options, but when I first opened my case with immigration, she helped me a lot. She helped me to get my car at the time, she helped me with all my papers, and she provided me with a lot of important information. I always tell her that she’s more than my lawyer, she’s my friend. She was always there.

It must not have been easy to ignore all the naysayers. Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share the story with us?

I had a really profound experience when I was seven or eight years old — I got a heart operation. Since then, I’ve felt like I was given a second opportunity at life. I always remembered this as I grew up. I made it my goal no matter what to make the most of it. It really built my resiliency.

I think it’s part of the reason I want to practice medicine. After I got that operation, I wanted to be a surgeon, but then as I got older and older, that dream changed a little bit. Now I want to be a therapist, because now that I’m older, I can see how my mom must have felt at that moment. She knew her daughter was in a bad situation and she didn’t know if I would survive or what would happen to me. It’s really good to have someone support you in those situations, not only with money, but just by staying with you.

Based on your experience, can you share 5 strategies that people can use to harness the sense of tenacity and do what naysayers think is impossible? (Please share a story or an example for each)

One is to believe in yourself. You’ve always had the power. It all depends on you. If you believe in yourself, I promise you, you will do it, you will get it, you will achieve your goal.

The second is that you should always ask. Don’t be afraid. I used to be afraid because I didn’t speak English and was worried they wouldn’t understand me. There were so many times I was too scared to ask until I realized that asking is the best way to find an answer. I can do so many things I couldn’t do before I started asking. It’s always going to be a yes or a no, so just ask.

The third is that it takes little steps. At the beginning, the goal can seem so far away, but by taking little steps, you’ll get it. Start from the beginning, go little by little.

The fourth is to be disciplined. For me, discipline is one of the key tools that help us achieve our goals. Always give more than what is required. For example, if you go to an interview and it is not in a formal setting, still dress up as though you’re working with lawyers. Dreams come true if you work for them with dedication and focus.

The fifth is to overcome your fears. Fears are insecurities that hold us back from achieving our goals. Learn to overcome your fears little by little until you reach the other side, where your goals are waiting for you.

What is your favorite quote or personal philosophy that relates to the concept of resilience?

There are two quotes I always carry with me. One is, in Spanish, “No tengas miedo de los sueños. Ten miedo de no completarlos.” In English, that’s “Don’t be scared of your dreams — be scared you won’t achieve them.”

Another is from ‘A Cinderella Story’, which I watched as a kid in Spanish, but there was a line that essentially said you shouldn’t be scared to make a mistake — ”Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game”. In Spanish, that’s “No por miedo a errar vas dejar de jugar”.

To me, these two phrases don’t mean you shouldn’t be scared of something or that you have to stop yourself from being scared. It’s more like you should be afraid not to get to where you want to be or where you want to go.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

Never stop dreaming, because dreams do come true. Help everyone you can because beautiful things always come back to you. Always trust in the capacity you have, that there is always hope to go far.

Can our readers follow you on social media?

You can follow The Brave House on Instagram or Twitter @TheBraveHouse or visit our website thebravehouse.com!

Thank you for these great stories. We wish you only continued success!

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Candice Georgiadis
Authority Magazine

Candice Georgiadis is an active mother of three as well as a designer, founder, social media expert, and philanthropist.