Janice Kurczewski Reyes ’06

How has your Hood education benefited you?

I had amazing professors and challenging coursework that has shaped who I am as a person today. However, Hood is more than an education. On graduation day you don’t leave Hood with just facts you learned in your classes and a binder full of papers you swear to never throw away. You leave with life long friendships, memories and experiences that shape your identity, mentors that truly care, the ability to learn anything you want, and the willingness to be adventurous.

How did your time at Hood prepare you for the future?

Hood prepared me in many ways. I learned to be adventurous, that empathy and compassion can change a person, and that life is most rewarding when you walk with humility.

I was not the best at anything, failed often, and made plenty of mistakes. It took awhile, but I eventually learned that my identity is not rooted in my mistakes, failure, and shame. I’m happy and content now because I learned to deal with failure while I was at Hood. It wasn’t a pleasant experience and those growing pains led to much suffering, but with some perspective I’m humbled by that experience. Life is most rewarding when you walk with humility.

When I was at Hood I went through some really hard personal things and had some really amazing friends that walked alongside me even when I was at my worst. I experienced professors and friends that extended me grace and compassion when I was an emotional mess and tried to isolate myself. Their empathy changed my life and helped set me on the path to caring for others. My big sis and old roommates are still some of my best friends. I wouldn’t be the woman I am today without all their support and encouragement over the last 14 years. Hood prepared me to be a middle school teacher in the Bronx and a foster mother to kids from hard places because I learned about compassion and serving others.

Hood prepared me to be adventurous. I moved to the Bronx to teach middle school, got married, and had two sons 13 months apart (one of my more crazier adventures). I then moved to Austin, started a photography business in 2010, and serve alongside Mobile Loaves and Fishes. I’ve gone on mission trips to Hope of Life in Guatemala. I homeschool my kids, became a foster parent, and adopted the sweetest 7 year old.

What were your extracurricular experiences?

I was in the Ionic Society, environmental club, chemistry club, and choir. I was also a fire marshal and hall representative for Coblentz. You can laugh at the fire marshal thing, but active foster homes are legally required to do monthly fire drills.

Did you decide your major right away?

I went in as a biology major and graduated with a degree in environmental science and policy with a concentration in biology.

What is your favorite memory of Hood?

The “Hood Hello,” because after ten years I still say hello to people when I walk past them. I don’t even have the space for the stories I can tell from just saying “hello” to a person walking by. Sometimes people are caught off guard, but it’s a humanity thing to acknowledge that you see another person. My homeless friends have told me they can go days without anyone talking to them or even someone making eye contact. I like to think the “Hood Hello” isn’t just for campus, but something we can take out into the world.

Who were your mentors at Hood?

I am afraid to leave someone out because most of my professors were gifted educators that inspired me to become a teacher. The professors at Hood have created an academic culture that is challenging, encouraging, and one of integrity. Dr. Eric Kindahl’s enthusium, Dr. Susan Ensel’s compassion, Dr. Lori Wollerman’s encouragement, Dr. Betsy Estilow’s joyfulness, and Dr. Sally Spence’s kindness all played a significant role in my life.

What is your opinion on the value of a Hood education?

A Hood education means opportunity and I think the value of that is priceless. After my freshman year I interned at the USDA and quickly realized that working in a lab all the time was not for me. The following summer I worked outside of Cleveland, OH in Cuyahoga Valley National Park and loved teaching kids about the environment and outdoors. I was also an assistant director of a camp before my senior year with Discovery Creek Children’s Museum. I absolutely got those summer internships because Hood prepared and supported me to make the most of my summers. I had a strong resume when I was applying for jobs after college and was accepted to the NYC Teaching Fellows Program. All those opportunities were available to me because of my Hood education.

What is your opinion on the value of a liberal arts education?

I’m a life long learner because of my liberal arts education. I learned in college the unexpected joy of learning something I didn’t even realize I wanted to learn. I’m confident when I want to learn something new because I know it will be a rewarding experience. As a foster parent I’ve spent the last two years learning about trauma and interpersonal neurobiology in order to create a safe and healing home for kids in crisis.

What would you say to students applying to Hood?

Apply to Hood if you are looking for more than an education. If you are hard working, appreciate opportunities, and eager to grow as a person then Hood is going to make a great home for you.

What role has your Hood education played in your career?

It was at Hood that I learned to be creative in finding a solution and to be willing to try new things. Now, that’s exactly how I approach my business. The photography market is constantly changing and requires me to either adapt or fall behind. I market myself differently than most photographers and have found an approach that works really well for my area of photography. My personal goals include being grateful everyday, not idolizing comfort, and always learning from failure. They are lifelong personal goals that got their start during my time at Hood.

Why did you choose to attend Hood College?

A friend of the family attended Hood and encouraged me to visit. I really loved the small class size, traditions, and beautiful campus.