Empowering Vulnerable Children: The Journey of Keren Reyes in Trauma-Informed Education

Keren Reyes, M.Ed., is the Education Coordinator Supervisor at Bethany Christian Services. She is TEFL and TESOL certified (Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages), a Trauma-Informed Specialist, and a Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI) Practitioner. Keren’s primary focus is helping, supporting, and working with children who have experienced trauma through TBRI, a holistic, attachment-based, and trauma-informed intervention designed to meet the complex needs of vulnerable children impacted by trauma and adverse childhood experiences (ACEs).

Keren earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Dietetics from Western Michigan University. She was awarded the Best Thesis Project and Presentation for her study titled: “How Parenting Styles and Eating Behaviors Impact the Health Outcomes of Young Children in the Community of Migrant Farmers in Michigan,” from Western Michigan University’s honors program, the Lee Honors College. This study employed a quasi-experimental pre- and post-test research design to assess the effectiveness of a three-week nutrition course (from Project L.E.A.N) for migrant farmworker parents. Thirty-three migrant farmworker parents residing in Michigan, whose children attended the Telamon Sodus Migrant Head Start program in Sodus, Michigan, were recruited for this study. Results suggested an increase in the intake of healthy foods (e.g., fruits and vegetables) and a decrease in the intake of unhealthy foods (e.g., French fries) during the three-week nutrition course, indicating its effectiveness.

After graduating with her Bachelor’s Degree and completing her thesis with WMU and Project L.E.A.N., Keren began her career as a Nutrition Coordinator with Project L.E.A.N at the Van Buren Intermediate School District (ISD). She served the Hispanic and Latino community in Southwest Michigan for three years. During her time with Project L.E.A.N., Keren worked with migrant children, parents, and families by providing nutrition and cooking classes, food safety courses, physical education activities, and food budgeting lessons. After several years with Project Lean, she shifted her focus to transitional foster care, becoming a Lead Teacher. Her passion to work with children with trauma was strengthened by Bethany Christian Services, where she taught various grade levels to children who have suffered or been exposed to trauma or other adverse conditions early in life. She was then introduced to Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI) and began implementing TBRI principles and strategies in her classroom.

Captivated by the work of TBRI and the Karyn Purvis Institute of Child Development, Keren pursued her Master’s Degree in Trauma-Informed Education at Columbia College in South Carolina. Through her work at Columbia College, Keren combined her passion for serving vulnerable children and bringing trauma-informed interventions into systems of care. After receiving her Master’s Degree, Keren began her career as an Education Coordinator Supervisor with Bethany Christian Service. She spent two years serving vulnerable adolescent boys with trauma, mental health, and alcohol and drug addictions within residential programs (Residential Treatment Shelter, Boys Group Home, and Independent Living Programs).

Today, Keren leads the Education team at Bethany Christian Services in the Transitional Foster Care Program. Currently, Keren is implementing her trauma-informed and TBRI knowledge in school settings and incorporating different trauma-informed approaches to meet the needs of vulnerable children from difficult backgrounds. Her goal is to create a culture in both the classroom and school where all students feel safe, welcomed, and can succeed. Through her experiences in the education field, Keren became aware of the desperate need for training for children from “hard places,” especially children from the developing world, and decided to become a TBRI Practitioner to equip staff and foster families with TBRI tools.

Over the years, Keren has become trained and specialized in Youth Mental Health First Aid, Adult Mental Health First Aid, Trauma-Informed Care, Sensory Processing Disorders, Social Emotional Learning, and The Sanctuary Model. Her substantial understanding of child development, English as a Second Language (ESL), trauma-informed care, mental health, substance abuse, sensory integration and processing, neuroscience, brain development, trauma-informed school systems, and TBRI provides a foundation from which Keren has developed a passion for teaching, learning, and serving vulnerable children, adults, and families to reach their highest potential.