CRMS Alumnae Reynis Vazquez ’13 and Rotceh Vazquez ’15, and a Family’s Sacrifice for Education

by Beth Smith

Home for the holidays special for Vazquez family

Scott Condon, Aspen Daily News Staff Writer
Article in the Aspen Daily News – December 25, 2023

The Vazquez family converged on El Jebel this week to celebrate Christmas and count their blessings, like the five-gallon bucket that opened a world of opportunity.

Hector and Reynis Vazquez made a tough decision in the early 2000s to uproot their family in Tijuana and move to the Roaring Fork Valley, where Hector’s parents lived. “Mama Reynis” would drive her two young daughters, Reynis and Rotceh, across the border every morning to classes at a private Catholic school in San Diego. They had to leave by 5 a.m. to ensure they got through the traffic line at the border crossing in time for school. In the afternoon it was the same time-consuming journey, just opposite.

“We really had a successful life in Mexico but we realized we wanted to give our daughters a better life — an education in a way they can be proud of,” Hector said. “I was a little afraid to leave my country and come here and my wife actually is the one that gave me the strength to say, ‘You know, let’s grab our family and come.’”

The girls were born in the U.S. and enjoyed a comfortable life in Mexico. The parents owned a small business and they enjoyed gatherings with extended family. They made the move to the Roaring Fork Valley in 2003 and had to share one tiny room when they arrived.

“I started working three jobs because we wanted to have our own home and we were living in this little room,” Hector said. “It was really hard. One of the things that made me almost cry and think of maybe going back to Mexico and forgetting about the States was when my daughter (Reynis) told me she needed a place to do her homework.”

There was no room for a desk in their cramped single room. It was dominated by the bed they shared.

“So I went outside and grabbed a five-gallon bucket and I grabbed another one-gallon bucket, so she would sit down on the one-gallon bucket and she would use the five-gallon bucket for her notebook and start doing her homework,” Hector said.

Reynis was in third grade at the time. Rotceh, a first-grader, did her homework on the bed.

Hard work by Hector and Mama Reynis allowed the family to eventually buy and renovate a mobile home in El Jebel.

Mama Reynis said she always believed education was critical for her daughters. That’s why she was willing to sacrifice, whether it was in Tijuana or El Jebel.

“That’s actually the one thing that we always agreed on,” Hector said. “We strongly believe that education makes a whole difference in the world. We just knew that education was the window or the door for life.”

Excelling academically

Education opened a door indeed. Old Snowmass resident Scott Gilbert was on the board of trustees of Colorado Rocky Mountain School in 2008 and given the task of finding a promising Latina in the Roaring Fork Valley that might be interested in attending the private school.

Gilbert said he talked to an administrator at Basalt Middle School and was advised to consult with an English teacher. That teacher highly recommended Reynis for consideration because of her strong academic performance and interest in arts and cultural endeavors. In Gilbert’s words, Reynis was portrayed as a “shining star.”

He accompanied the family to CRMS and they made the decision that Reynis would attend.

“It was a very sudden shift for me,” Reynis said. “All through eighth grade, you’re a really tight community, you’re all going on to Basalt High School. I liked Basalt. I liked being a Basalt Longhorn.”

Before the family reached their decision, she was warned that she might excel at Basalt High School but she wasn’t guaranteed success at a school where perhaps the academic standards were higher.

“Sometimes that’s really motivating, to prove people wrong,” Reynis said.

She excelled at CRMS and stood out because of her pre-SAT test score. She was invited to apply for a summer camp at MIT in the program Minority Introduction to Technology, Engineering and Science.

“That gave me hope that I could apply to some of the top colleges and have a chance of getting in,” Reynis said. “And even if I didn’t get in, it at least encouraged me to apply.”

Upon graduation at CRMS, she was accepted at Yale, Columbia, MIT and Stanford among others.

“I knew I wanted to study something related to math and science,” Reynis said. “Engineering seemed like a good combination. Stanford really promotes computer science. The computer science culture there is really big.”

She recalled that when she was in middle school, she had taken a computer programming course for kids, taught by Steve Kaufman. That class was inspiring and proved useful in her academic pursuits.

Reynis had summer internships with a who’s who in Big Tech — Google, Qualcomm and Microsoft as well as a research opportunity at MIT. She had a lot of summers available, she said, because she pursued her master’s degree at Stanford after her undergraduate work.

After graduating, she was hired by a start-up firm in Silicon Valley as a software engineer and has nurtured a successful career there in the last few years.

Rotceh followed an equally successful academic track. She also graduated high school from CRMS, then went to Boston University where she graduated in deaf studies.

While in Basalt Middle School, Rotceh was fascinated during a field trip to the Deaf Camp in Old Snowmass. She taught herself American Sign Language and took courses available at Basalt Library.

After graduating from Boston University, Rotceh went to work for a Orlando, Florida-based nonprofit organization that provided free and low-cost legal assistance to immigrants. She won a Gates Scholarship to attend law school at the University of Washington in Seattle.

“She wants to continue doing work in immigration and immigration justice,” Reynis said. She also remains active in issues with the deaf community.

Tags from the story

Academics, Alumni, Community, Student

Recent Posts

Lynne Galluzzo hand-letters each CRMS leather diploma in her home office.

Lettering a Legacy: The Artist Behind 1,300 CRMS Diplomas

Mountains Teach Sue Maffei Plowden ‘74 Resilience at Sea

Jack Tolan ‘05 Finds True Success Enriching Lives with Music