Reese Barber

Schuylkill Speaks: A Conversation with Reese Barber

Reese Barber is a father, business owner, and soon-to-be graduate of Penn State Schuylkill. With ambitions of challenging the juvenile justice system, he sat down to tell us what’s next on his journey.
By: Samantha L. Bower

In a few short days, Reese Barber will graduate with his bachelor’s degree in Administration of Justice, but he already owns his own business. Reese is a Philadelphia native born to a family of entrepreneurs, and part of him follows in their footsteps while another builds upon their legacy. A juvenile justice advocate, Reese juggles his business, education, and caring for his 19-month-old son, Cash, with ambitions of challenging the justice system.

Growing up in Philadelphia, Reese saw how the odds were stacked against his friends and neighbors within the justice system. He noted that this disadvantage had far-reaching implications for youths as they became adults and pledged to make a difference.

Reese is a father, business owner, and soon-to-be Penn State University graduate. He has ambitions to make life better for American youth, and he shared some of his plans with us in the following interview.

Where are you from?

I was born and raised in West Philly – not the worst part, but not the best part either. My parents own a chain of daycare centers across the Philadelphia area, and when the business took off we moved out of the city and have lived in Downingtown ever since.

What was your early school career like?

When I first got to school, I was open minded. I didn't know what to expect. I just knew that with anything, it’s going to be what you make of it. So I chose to make the best of it and I’ve loved school since I’ve been here. I also knew it would be a different experience for me with moving out on my own, but I was ready for a new chapter in my life. I partied a whole lot in my freshman and sophomore year, but it took for me to fail in order for me to realize that all that stuff is irrelevant and me finishing school was important.

Did you always want a career in Administration of Justice, or did you entertain other career paths? If so, which careers did you consider and why?

I always had an underlying passion for trying to change something when it comes to justice in juveniles. Growing up, I saw a lot of young people make bad decisions that cost them their lives. I worked in childcare facilities the majority of my life, so I know the environment these kids live in as they get older. I did explore the option of physical therapy, but that didn’t work out because I’m not too good at science, and being a business major didn’t work out too well because math isn’t my strong suit, either [he laughs]. So I went back to my passion.

What made you want to earn a degree in Administration of Justice?

I have a plan and ideas to reform the justice system for juveniles. I want to open up a rehabilitation center for juveniles so that we can turn them around before they get too far down the wrong track.

Why did you choose Penn State Schuylkill to earn your degree?

I applied to Penn State University Park and I got accepted into Schuylkill. I had the opportunity to do the 2+2 plan, but when I got to Schuylkill and met the people and professors I knew I was staying [he laughs]. I visited all of the campuses, but the Skook is my home.

What people, places, and things at Schuylkill have made earning your Administration of Justice degree an awesome experience?

The people that played an amazing role in my experience were Ron Kelly, Kim Quinn, Valerie Clay, and Hakan Can. These people pushed me when I didn't even want to push myself, and they helped me through a lot with school and life. 

Have you had a favorite class, or is there a specific focus within Administration of Justice you really enjoy?

My favorite classes were with [Ron] Kelly. He made class fun to be in and didn’t talk to us like we were just students – he leveled with the class as people, adults. It was more like sitting down in a room and your friend just dropping knowledge on you. One of the best classes I took with him was juvenile delinquency because it was in my focus area, and I learned a lot more than I intended to.

Ron Kelly has told us that you co-own a daycare facility in Philadelphia. Can you tell us a bit about that?

Yeah, so as I told you my parents own daycare centers all over the city of Philadelphia. While I was in college, they wanted me to have a “Plan B” for some sense of security, so they offered me a partnership with my first daycare center, which is in south Philadelphia. So I came home and decided to finish school online [at Penn State World Campus] and opened my own daycare center in north Philadelphia, so now I run two centers. 

What motivated you to open your daycare facility?

Honestly, my parents pushed me to always be my own boss, and why not start with the family business? I already had the background and experience – it just kind of made sense.

What do you think the future of the daycare looks like now that you’re graduating with your bachelor’s degree?

I think I can connect my knowledge of criminal justice with my daycares and meet somewhere in the middle with the juvenile delinquency aspect. I’m going to continue to build daycares because education is an imperative part of everyone's life, but like I said, hopefully I can build something for those who are a little bit older.

Mr. Kelly has also told us that you had a baby last year. Congratulations on your new addition! Can you tell us about him?

Yes, his name is Cash and he is one and will be two on October 5. He’s been nothing but great, honestly. He’s a little crazy, but he is a reflection of me and his mother completely: he is outgoing, fearless and loves food. 

How has Cash affected your academic life?

He has definitely pushed me and he doesn’t even know it [he laughs]. Because of him, I told myself I have to finish my degree because I want to set an example for him even though he’s so young. When he gets older, I want to be able to tell him that regardless of how long it takes, don't give up and finish everything you start.

You took the path many of us do when we’re earning our degree and you spread out your studies over several years. How does your family feel now that you’ll cross the stage and accept your degree?

Everyone is really excited and they’re just happy that I’m finally graduating. I’ve had some bumps in the road, but I overcame them and they’re happy that I got through it all to graduate.

Do you have any exciting post-grad plans?

I’m going to Las Vegas with a couple friends and family to celebrate, and then when I come back we’re getting straight to work on these dreams of mine [he laughs].

Do you have any advice for current or future college students? 

The advice that I’d give anybody in college or going to college is to stay focused. Parties, extra things will still be there when you’re done with your work, but never give up if you have a dream.