Originally from Detroit, Crystal first came to the Washtenaw County chapter of BBBS as an intern while she was studying at EMU. After graduating with her degree in social work in 2011, she was hired full time through Americorps, and she has been with us ever since, serving as a Match Support Specialist, a Customer Relations Specialist, and, since 2016, an Enrollment Specialist. In her current position, Crystal facilitates the initial process of enrolling Bigs and Littles into our program. After they sign up, we contact all the Bigs and Littles and interview everyone to determine who would be a good match for them. Each Big and Little comes to us with their own goals, talents, needs, and personality, and Crystal’s job is to do her best to gather all the information necessary to set each match up for success!
Crystal says she has always had a strong desire to help people, but she has always been especially eager to be a positive influence in the lives of young people. While she mentioned that she didn’t have a lot of positive role models growing up, she said her grandfather stood out as someone who was invested in her development as an individual. “He taught me about responsibility,” she said, explaining that he taught her important skills from driving to paying bills to home repair. “He was invested in me being a strong, independent adult.” Crystal pays these lessons forward every day not only through her job as an enrollment specialist, where she works to mentor and support new interns, but also through her role as a Big Sister herself!
Just as Crystal’s grandfather encouraged her to be independent, Crystal tries to instill the same trait in her Little Sister. For example, when Crystal and her Little transitioned from being a school-based match to a community-based match, Crystal worked to empower her Little to form healthy friendships without Crystal being there to immediately facilitate her peer interactions. After having Crystal there to guide her in person, Crystal’s Little has had to learn how to make good decisions about who to interact with on her own, and Crystal says she is happy to see the progress she has made.
Crystal has been matched with her Little Sister for 5 years, and she believes being a Big Sister for so long helps her to support other Bigs in our program. “Bigs can trust that I am speaking from experience,” she said. Between mentoring her Little and raising her own daughter, Crystal certainly understands the challenges little girls today are facing. “Everything happens for kids so much earlier,” she explained, so she believes it is important for kids to be able to be kids.
When asked about her upcoming goals for BBBS, Crystal was quick to mention that she wants to help recruit more Big Brothers to the program. “70% of our waitlist is little boys waiting for a Big Brother,” she said, so she is constantly advocating for more men to sign up for the program. She also mentioned her excitement for upcoming events that she is helping to plan, such as Rec Night and an event with Therapeutic Riding Incorporated (TRI) where Littles will have the opportunity to learn how to care for and ride horses. (“TRI is one of my Little’s personal favorite events,” she added.)
With so much happening at BBBS and given that Crystal is also a mother and a Big Sister, it is perhaps no surprise that Crystal says the biggest challenge of her job is scheduling! (“My life is a whirlwind of schedules,” she joked.) However, Crystal says she always looks forward to meeting new people, hearing their stories, and imagining the ways BBBS can impact them. “I love imagining the good we can do and knowing that I can make a difference…It doesn’t feel like work all the time.”