Making an Impact: The Power of a Community Leader



When you think about the number of priorities a working mom has on a daily basis, volunteer work may not always make the cut. Tell that to Veronica Reyes, a hard-working mom from Cudahy, California who has dedicated more than 20 years to volunteering in health and fitness.

In the early 1990s, Reyes was busy with raising her kids, working at Elizabeth Learning Center as a supervision aide and spent much of her free time running through the local park.

Motivated by her love of fitness, Reyes offered to volunteer teach an aerobics class in the Family Center on campus. The Family Center was eventually moved to a smaller classroom, making it difficult for Reyes to continue teaching aerobics. She worked with the administrators to move her class into a larger space, which offered before school hours, thus proving her dedication to the school community.

Over a decade later, in 2005, Reyes was still working as a supervision aide when the Sound Body Sound Mind Foundation provided the Elizabeth Learning Center with a fitness center grant. The grant included state-of-the-art cardio machines and weight equipment. Continuing to pursue her interest in fitness, Reyes approached physical education teacher Christine Berni-Ramos with the idea of supervising the center during after-school hours. Reyes was trained on how to properly use the equipment and began by opening the center for three days a week.

As Reyes’ youngest children entered school, she was able to devote more time to the fitness center, spending five days a week toward the after-school program. Early on, she recognized the importance of consistency and just how vital this fitness center was for the entire Cudahy community.

In 2010, Sound Body Sound Mind partnered with Competitive Athlete Training Zone (CATZ) to develop a curriculum that would motivate physical education students and help them enjoy fitness. Shortly after, Reyes was trained on the 36-lesson curriculum, bringing an additional level of expertise to the fitness center on campus.

“She runs a tight ship here,” said PE teacher Christine Berni-Ramons. “She makes sure people are using the equipment properly and that they know the rules when they come in. Everyone respects Veronica and respects the fitness center.”

Over the years, Reyes has incorporated classes like Zumba, P90X, and step aerobics to engage the community in finding fitness fun. She often provides advice for members of the community on ways to improve their health, whether by coming to the fitness center for 30 minutes a day or by suggesting healthy food options. When she isn’t volunteering her time, she’s running at the local park – something she’s done nearly all her life.

For more than 14 years Reyes has helped Elizabeth Learning Center provide the city of Cudahy with a safe, free option for working out. It is the only free community fitness option available in the entire city.

“She’s a great role model,” Berni-Ramos said. “It’s been a blessing to have her here for so long.”

Reyes still works at Elizabeth Learning Center as a campus learning aide. Her kids, now grown, co-teach the volleyball team and club.

For Reyes, it’s simple, a sense of community or support paired with a healthy diet and exercise are the building blocks toward a life well-lived.

Veronica Reyes

Community leader Veronica Reyes has been overseeing the UCLA Health SBSM fitness center at Elizabeth Learning Center for more than 20 years

Elizabeth Fitness Center

The UCLA Health Sound Body Sound Mind fitness center at Elizabeth Learning Center serves more than 1,700 students each year.

Veronica Reyes Center

Reyes has made health and fitness pillars to her success and strives to inspire others.