Crystal began her undergraduate degree at the University of Central Florida and transferred to Christopher Newport University in Virginia. Once there, Crystal received her Bachelor’s in Social Work. After obtaining her bachelors, Crystal decided to pursue a Master’s in social work with a clinical concentration.
While earning the hours needed to get her clinical license, Crystal realized that path did not fulfill her desires to help her community. She decided to pause her pursuit and look for other opportunities. She briefly moved to New York City and began working at a shelter for families experiencing homelessness in the Bronx.
Due to her own connection with the outdoors from an early age, she decided to pursue another opportunity at a wilderness therapy program in Vermont. In this work, she would often go backpacking or camping in the mountains as a way to help clients. Due to insurance often not covering the program, Crystal’s clients were often wealthy, white individuals.
This sparked an internal conflict within Crystal. She thought about the folks who could benefit from the program back in the city and the lack of diversity the outdoors struggled with. She found herself questioning her own work with the Latino community and how she could bridge that gap of access to the outdoors.
Shortly after, she applied to become a Program Associate with Hispanic Access Foundation. She felt a strong connection to the work and mission of the organization. She knew she could make a direct impact in the community.
“I work for Hispanic Access because the overall mission really aligns with my personal goals of being of support to others and advancing people’s quality of life. I also feel really grateful to be assisting a community I identify as a part of. I appreciate that our team lets the community lead the conversation and lets the community assess what their needs are.”
She currently works as a Program Associate for the MANO Project, a program that focuses on workforce development. She recently witnessed her first cohort of U.S. Fish and Wildlife interns start and finish the program. She enjoyed connecting with the different interns and watching them through the various stages of their projects.
“I was able to witness how they have grown from their interviews, at first very nervous to now fully flourished in their roles. I can see the passion for the work they are doing and it is really fulfilling to hear the excitement they carry for the program. They turn into leaders of their own.”
Hispanic Access is inspiring, training, and working with leaders like Crystal Strong, who have a stake in their community and have the drive for positive change. To help support and continue this work, please consider making a Charitable Donation