Stories of the Class of 2017: Everardo Reyes: Discovering ‘Music Deserts’

Everardo Reyes, who received his bachelor's degree in Sociology cum laude, discovered UNC while he was living with his wife in Japan, where they both were teaching non-credit classes at a local community center. She taught art and he taught music.

When he started looking at ways to start earning a bachelor's degree before they returned to the United States, he came across information about the online degree in sociology offered through UNC's Extended Campus.

Despite some reservations - he would be the first in his family to attend college - he applied and was accepted into the online program.

"I was nervous to take an online class and it turned out to be one of the best things I've done," Reyes said.

That simple first step would lead to much, much more for Reyes.

It was through Sandra Harmon, coordinator of the online program and a lecturer in the Sociology Department, that he learned about the McNair Scholars program, which prepares students for graduate school and works to link academic excellence and social diversity to transform students' personal and academic goals into a successful future.

Harmon encouraged Reyes to apply for the program. After his acceptance, Reyes said he thought about school completely differently.

"After I joined, it just opened up my mind to different options," said Reyes. "I realized I could add stuff to academia, that I could research things that could be added to books."

His excellent grades then opened the door for Reyes' acceptance into UNC's Upper Division Honors Program

As a McNair scholar who was conducting research of his own, Reyes decided to put his love for music and his love for sociology to work.

"I have always been interested in music, ever since I was very young," said Reyes. "I didn't actively play until the seventh grade. I went to a low-income school and chose band as an elective."

But, the school he attended didn't have the resources to supply instruments or to have a full-time music teacher.

"For the beginning of the semester, I sat in a music room with other students while a sub read in a corner," Reyes said.

Later that semester, Reyes and his family moved to a middle-class neighborhood. At his new school, Reyes had to remain in a music class.

"I was very surprised by the abundance of resources in the class," said Reyes. "There were instruments everywhere and it was the first time I got to see a drum set."

Reyes said that the experiences he had at the two schools was the impetus for him to pursue his research project on music deserts, which examines K-12 students' access to musical instruments based on the socio-economics of the neighborhoods where they live and attend school.

Reyes was chosen to present his research last summer at the 24th annual National Ronald E. McNair Symposium at the University of California Berkley, where he was awarded a certificate for contributing new knowledge to academia.

He also presented the project at the National Conference of Undergraduate Research in Memphis, Tenn., in April. He was one of three UNC students selected through a competitive process during UNC's annual Research Day to represent the university at the prestigious event.

At commencement, he received the Robert and Ludie Dickeson Presidential Prize for Leadership, which acknowledges and rewards student leadership on the UNC campus.

For all of the experiences that Reyes has had at UNC, he seeks to set that bar higher by attending a graduate school that will help him to continue to grow. He's narrowed his choices down to two schools, a much smaller number than the original eight that he applied to and was accepted at.

- Monique Becker, Bachelor's in Journalism, 2017


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