By Arturo Aguirre, April 13, 2021
Cal Poly Pomona alumna Dayanira Reyes (’03, psychology and minor in women’s studies) is a social worker for the Pomona Police Department working as a crisis responder. Her job places her on the scene with officers to help contain criminals, civilians and the homeless who struggle with mental health issues.
Reyes was born in Durango, Mexico, and in 1980 her family immigrated to the United States. During her upbringing, Reyes was always interested in helping people who were facing difficult challenges ranging from oppression and mental health issues.
Reyes acknowledged the love and care from her biggest supporters, her mother and daughter, who encourage her to help those in need and continue make an impact for her community.
“I find her incredibly inspiring and amazing, and she’s the person that gives me all my strength and passion in what I do,” said Reyes. “She’s done a lot, my mom, for being 81 with 11 children, and she wants to help one other person until she can’t give anymore.”
In her late 20s, Reyes enrolled in a two-year certificate program at Santa Monica College that focused on play therapy forchildren. With this degree, she worked as a child behavioral therapist for five years.
“As I was only working part time as a child behavioral therapist, it taught me how to understand the developmental stages of a child,” said Reyes.
Reyes’ interest in psychology developed after she transferred to CPP from Santa Monica College at the age of 30. Despite enrolling as CPP at a later age, she utilized campus resources to find her purpose in helping people with psychological issues .
“I was also considered like an older, reentry type of student because I went to start Cal Poly when I was 30 years old; so, I used the Women’s Center and any support for transferring students,” said Reyes.
Reyes also minored in women’s studies to not only build her degree, but to learn about the injustices of gender, race and other issues of oppression. She remembers her time at CPP as a place where she found her true calling.
After graduating from USC with a master’s degree in psychology, she worked for the Department of Public Social Services for the City of Pomona for a decade. Reyes was then hired as a crisis responder for the Pomona Police Department in September 2019.
Her position as a crisis responder involves racing to emergency calls for her unit “Queen Four” alongside her partner, Officer Flores. While on calls, Reyes provides officers with critical information when approaching someone suffering from a mental health crisis. Her position allows her to train officers to properly analyze a suspect’s status when apprehending them.
“All of the other experiences come to play, because I am a human being first and foremost, “said Reyes. “I am able to help them come into the same insight about the person that we are dealing with within our community,” said Reyes.
Teaching officers to treat and care for every person who may have a mental health challenge is a difficult task, but one Reyes is ready to take on. She mentioned that whenever there is an emergency within the city, she arrives right on scene, prepared to do her job.
“I help in a lot of different ways, not only to people that are in crisis, but also helping to train police officers on being able to respond to crisis situations with more empathy, with more compassion and more understanding,” said Reyes. “Whatever the behavior the person is having, in that moment it can have a logical resolution, because maybe the brain is disorganized, and you cannot have an inappropriate response.”
According to Reyes, her impact has not gone unnoticed and she has encountered numerous times where officers have thanked her for training them on handling situations dealing with mentally ill individuals.
“They come to me and they asked me what I think about this, and what do you think about that,” said Reyes. “I am able to give them my perspective and my view on things from a mental health perspective.”
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