My Local MA

#liveBRK Spotlight with Eden-Reneé Hayes, Ph.D.

Bringing Positivity Wherever She Goes

“I’ve lived in every US time zone except Alaska and I choose to live here,” says Dr. Eden-Reneé Hayes, an educator with a passion for equity who moved to the Berkshires in 2009 for a teaching position at Bard College at Simon’s Rock. The draw was both professional and personal. “It’s beautiful here, and I knew I’d be able to adjust to living in a rural area, especially since the Berkshires is close to five major cities.”

Dr. Hayes wears many hats. In the spring she accepted a new role as Director of the Davis Center at Williams College. She is a former board member of Multicultural BRIDGE and currently mentors adolescent girls through Rites of Passage and Empowerment (ROPE) in Pittsfield.

As mother to two children, ages 3 and 7, Dr. Hayes values the quality of life in the Berkshires, even though that life looks very different now. “The US is facing multiple pandemics. COVID is just one of them. I’ve had to learn to work from home while simultaneously caring for my children, and I’ve had to figure out how to support a campus community in a virtual environment. I once gave a presentation to over 100 students while making peanut butter graham cracker sandwiches for my son. This is life now. I think this time will make us more compassionate, teach our kids more independence, and help us to realize what’s really important to us.”

In addition to family, Dr. Hayes’s life and work focuses on issues of cultural competency, gender, equity, and inclusion. “The systemic racism pandemic started well before COVID and has most certainly hit the Berkshires,” Dr. Hayes says. “Racist ideologies are expressed in Pittsfield-based Facebook groups. An anti-semitic hate crime was committed on a historically Black church in Great Barrington. A Black Lives Matter sign in Sheffield was defaced. I do find hope in every BLM sign in my neighborhood, the Great Barrington Middle School being renamed after Du Bois, and the increase in organizations realizing that they must be proactive to be inclusive.”

Despite the challenges 2020 has presented, Dr. Hayes continues to find ways to enjoy the Berkshires. While in past years she and her family have attended Jacob’s Pillow, Tanglewood, and Winterlights at Naumkeag, this year her sights have focused more on the outdoor aspects of the region. “I have discovered a love for hiking and have invested in boots and downloaded an app to find family-friendly paths. My daughter loves to bring her white teddy bear along…let’s just say that Teddy needs a trip through the wash when we get home.”

From teaching and family to engaging with the community, Dr. Hayes brings her positive energy to all areas of her life. “Live out your passions, whatever they are,” she says. “It’s really important. I’ve decided to use this time to expose my kids to what I know they haven’t been doing in school. I found a Drag Queen Storytime online, taught them about earning and saving money, did science experiments, and started a vegetable garden. (Thanks, BRIDGE!). We read books and watch movies with diverse authors and characters. I pray the whole time that I am modeling resilience.”

Written by Nancy Macy.

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