When Victoria Reyna headed back to school last year she was thinking about her kids.
Reyna has four children; her oldest is a junior in high school.
“I told my daughter I was going to get my diploma before she did,” Reyna said with a smile.
And she did. Wednesday night, Reyna will receive her high school equivalency diploma with a certification in phlebotomy during the Billings Adult Education graduation ceremony. Reyna also will receive the program’s Faculty Award.
It’s a satisfying victory for Reyna.
Twenty years ago, she was Victoria Nava, a sophomore at Senior High and done with school. She dropped out.
“I chose a different path for myself,” she said.
A good example
She’s a different person now. With two decades of life experience and bit more wisdom, Reyna understands the importance of education and especially the importance of being an example to her kids.
“I wanted to be a good role model for my children,” she said.
So returning to school was a deliberate decision. The Nava family has a long and storied history in Billings and Reyna has played her part in it, for good and bad.
In 2004, Reyna and her sister Jessie Nava were convicted and sentenced in federal court for running a scheme to collect prescription painkillers in lieu of rent owed to her father, Victor Nava Sr.
Victor Nava Sr., ran an extensive drug-running operation in Billings and was convicted in federal court in 2002 on multiple drug charges. He’s serving two life sentences in a federal prison in Colorado.
Following Nava’s conviction, federal officials moved to take possession of the Nava home on South 28th Street using a law that allows the government to seize property used in drug trafficking.
In her favor
It was Reyna’s home, although her father had lived there, and she fought to keep it. The case eventually worked its way up to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, who ruled in Reyna’s favor in 2005.
She still lives there, along with her husband and children, and her mother. Family is important to Reyna and she speaks lovingly of her father, who raised her and most of her siblings on his own.
“The main person (who) supported me was my father,” she said.
But she also takes responsibility for the poor decisions she’s made in her life.
“We all make bad choices,” she said. “But we overcome that. We have to fail in order to accomplish things in life.”
Her choice to attending Billings Adult Education and earn her high school equivalency diploma was part of that. She wants to make good on her life and show her children what success looks like.
She’s now working to earn her national certification in phlebotomy. A national certification will allow her work anywhere in the country and that, in turn, will help her children.
“I want to leave the state,” she said. “Make a new life for my children.”
The Nava name looms large in town and she believes getting out of Billings will allow her children to escape that shadow.
Reyna’s mother, Charlene Perez, would like to see her daughter’s success rehabilitate the Nava name.
“She’s just proven they’re like anybody else, that they can succeed,” Perez said. “She’s proven that Nava is just a name.”