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Breaking Through Barriers: One Student’s Journey from Foster Care to Graduation

Last updated on October 8, 2019

Only three percent of foster care children graduate college. On May 14, Krystal Holliday joined the lucky few.

“Statistically, I’m supposed to fail,” Krystal says. “I’m going against all the odds. But I know that my story isn’t finished.”

Growing Up in Foster Care

A recent graduate from North Lake College, Krystal’s story is not glamorous. A native of west Dallas, Krystal grew up in the housing projects. She saw drugs, she knew prostitutes, and she believed that it all was part of normal life. That was until age 11, when the State of Texas placed Krystal in a group home through Buckner Family Services. She would remain in the foster care system until age 18, constantly moving from group home to group home.

“I remember praying, a lot. I remember God being an anchor, still is. And that’s when I first started writing.”

Using writing as an outlet to journal and to process what was going on around her, Krystal soon discovered writing could also be a vehicle for change. “I’ve discovered my writing and my story, it can help others. I want to turn my past into a positive thing.”

This March, Krystal published her first book of poetry, titled “Broken Butterflies.” It is dedicated to her family, many of whom have turned misfortunes into means for good, including Krystal’s uncle who turned away from drugs after addiction killed Krystal’s mother. He is now serving his community as a church pastor.

Becoming a College Graduate

Krystal credits the TRiO program at North Lake College in helping her complete her college degree. TRiO provides support services to students who are traditionally under-represented in post-secondary education, including first-generation college students and students with economic needs. Through TRiO, Krystal received one-on-one academic advising and mentoring. Krystal also credits finding affordable housing as an essential step in finishing her degree. When she first began classes at North Lake College, she was living in her car with her dog.

To help other students in need, Krystal has teamed up with ENACTUS. The student club is part of an international organization that works with local business leaders to mobilize students to make a difference in their communities. The North Lake ENACTUS team outreach project is working to provide affordable housing for low-income students.

Plans for the Future

Krystal plans to one day start her own group home for foster care youth. If you ask her when she hopes to open her doors, she will correct you with an air of confidence and enthusiasm.

“It’s not ‘I hope.’ I will start a group home. After I finish my degrees.”

Krystal received her Associate in Arts degree from North Lake College in May 2015. She now plans to transfer to UNT, SMU or TCU to earn her bachelor’s degree in English or creative writing.

Watch the video below to hear Krystal’s poem “Literary Paintings”. It is dedicated to the DCCCD Class of 2015.

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