Incarcerated at 17 years old for a term of 35 years, Crystal recalls the day of her sentencing as her life’s defining moment. “I didn’t know what to do. I thought my life was over.”
But the light that shines within Crystal was bright enough to illuminate even her darkest days. “Going in, I knew I had to thrive harder. Even though freedom seemed so far away from me, I had to have hope and had to keep believing in myself. I knew that was not the life I was meant to live.”
Crystal stayed out of trouble while in prison and continued fighting her case. After 10 years, she was given her second chance and that is when she found Operation New Hope. “The people here genuinely care and love you like family. They made me feel like I was welcome and because of that, I was able to move forward. I soaked everything in. I had never had a job, never had a bank account, didn’t have a driver’s license. I was only 17 when I went away and I didn’t know how to be an adult. While enrolled in the Ready4Work program, I was able to learn the skills I needed.”
Since graduating from the program in 2017, Crystal has continued to thrive. “I started as a regular cook at Crispy’s and with the skills I learned at Operation New Hope, I was able to move up to sous chef within 6 months.” Beaming with the pride that she knows she has earned, she continues, “And from there, I’m going to keep on going.” Crystal shared that she has recently published several articles, is currently working on writing her autobiography, and plans to continue working on criminal justice reform and advocacy.
Her advice to the current clients – “If you want to succeed, you have to soak it in, keep yourself busy, and stay positive. You have to take it seriously. This is your life. This is your responsibility. You have to be ready to move forward and succeed because it doesn’t stop here.” The light within her shines for all to see. “I am going to continue to climb the ladder and be the voice for people who haven’t found their voice yet.”