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Check Out Crystal Ward’s Story

Today we’d like to introduce you to Crystal Ward.

Hi Crystal, it’s an honor to have you on the platform. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us – to start maybe you can share some of your backstory with our readers?
As far back as I can remember, I’ve been a natural leader and someone who genuinely cares about people and wants to see them succeed. I left high school and went to college to pursue a degree in teaching for that reason. Teaching would allow me to use all of my strengths. It would give me a place to build and guide and support students at a critical time in their life (high school) and hopefully make a difference in their future. It was an easy choice as a direction for me. I had some inspiring teachers and mentors who changed my life, and I wanted to do that for others.

As a young teacher, literally like a year or two in, I met a young student who would change my life, and I would impact hers. She was in foster care at the time, and she HATED me. LOL But, I pushed her. I challenged her, and I pushed her some more because I truly wanted her to want more for herself, and she did. When she found out she was pregnant as a high school senior, I was who she came to, which really touched me. From there, our relationship has grown. Someone who was once my student and mentee is now my friend, sister and inspiration for the non-profit I founded in 2020 during the pandemic. It’s Greater Than Expectations, and I’m super proud of the work we are doing and the lives of young adults that will be changed as a result.

We have a scholarship that is named after that student. It’s the Arielle Rideau Audacity to Succeed scholarship. This year we’ve expanded the scholarship to include a nationwide winner, so foster youth in the Los Angeles area should go to our website and look to apply.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
I mean, there are always struggles. There’s not enough time. There’s not enough money. It’s life. It sounds super cliche, but I mean, we learn from the struggles. Right? That’s where we grow. Starting a non-profit that focuses on youth programming and support in the middle of a pandemic where we literally couldn’t go anywhere was a struggle. But, we make it work, and we have been able to do some incredible things in the community, including launching our scholarship in 2021, so I’m proud of that.

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
Currently, as a professional, I am a Director of Student Recruitment for a network of charter schools in the Dallas-Fort Worth area in Texas. I have a team of folks who engage with and try to understand what parents and students are looking for in their education and connect them to the right campus.

In addition to that that I’m a mentor with Big Brothers, Big Sisters and I have been for more than ten years. I am a member of Delta Sigma Theta, Sorority, Incorporated and I spend my time really looking for ways to continue making an impact on the world around me.

My biggest professional focus right now though is Greater Than Expectations and trying to expand its impact and reach. GTE’s mission is to educate youth from foster care, equipping them with the essential tools necessary to transform their lives and discover their potential as leaders and change-makers in a challenging world. We’re still a baby organization, but we’ve already done so much great work and I’m really excited that opportunities like this one are presenting themselves and giving us the opportunity to talk about the work we’re doing with a broader audience. Anyone who is interested in our work, what we do, or our annual scholarship opportunity can follow us at www.greaterthanexpectations.org or @greaterthanexpectations on Instagram and Facebook. And not to brag too hard, but Ice-T, who I’ve loved and admired since forever, once liked our Instagram post. LOL

Networking and finding a mentor can have such a positive impact on one’s life and career. Any advice?
Talk to everyone! My people laugh at me all the time! I will start a conversation with anyone, anywhere, at any time. I’ve always been that way, but it really is the key to networking and finding a mentor. The saying is true; closed mouths don’t get fed. You have to be ready and willing to say what you want and go after it. The most someone can tell you is no. And no, sucks, but you stand up, and you keep pushing, and you ask again, or you ask someone else. You can’t be shy. You have to be willing to put yourself out there. And if you’re going to ask for favors from others, you have to be willing to return them. I stay with a network of people that I can connect to people who need it, and that really makes me happy. If you need someone who can fix a car, plan a wedding, plead a case, align your back, or give you resume advice, I have a connection to someone who can do all of those things, and I’m happy to connect them to other people, Because really at the end of the day, we all have something that we’re good at, and if we can tap into what other folks are good at and pool our collective talents and resources there is nothing that can’t get accomplished. I really believe that. Anything is possible in our small little corner of the world. We just have to be willing to do the work. Most people are afraid of the work.

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