Crystal Colon: Finding a passion for education
Crystal Colon didn’t set out to become a role model and leader in improving the education system in the Rochester area. But her involvement in activities both on and off campus inspired her to shift her focus away from the business major she envisioned as a first-year student.
Colon—an English major with a focus in language, media, and communication—graduated from Rochester’s East High School after moving to the area from New Brunswick, New Jersey, during her junior year.
Since her sophomore year at the University, Colon has dedicated more than 600 hours as a tutor for LEAP (Learning and Exploring at Play), a University early childhood literacy program run through the Rochester Center for Community Leadership. With the University’s Urban Fellows program, Colon spent a summer coordinating the Summer Safe Haven program at Cameron Community Ministries, helping to keep urban children safe, occupied, and learning during the summer months.
She says she has developed a strong bond with the kids she has tutored through the LEAP program.
“The kids have this bond, and they gain this connection with their tutor throughout the entire academic year until graduation day in April or May,” she says. “The students love it so much.”
Colon also holds leadership roles as the youth leader and youth counselor at her church, Overflow Christian Ministries, and as the administrative assistant for Rochester Youth Association, where she has organized collaborative events with other youth leaders from churches around the city.
“Younger students need to see that there are people who went through the city school district who are minorities and are now in college and accomplishing things,” Colon says. “They can do it as well.”
For her passion and dedication, Colon has received multiple awards and scholarships from the University, including the David T. Kearns Scholarship, the Brady Scholarship, and the Dean Ruth A. Merrill Award from the Susan B. Anthony Center for Community Leadership for her extensive engagement and service in the Rochester community. Earlier this year, she received the Independent Sector Student Community Service Award from the Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities for her commitment to community service and positive impacts on the local community.
Next year, she will enroll in the University’s Warner School of Education to pursue her master’s degree in teaching and curriculum as she works to become a high school English teacher.
“Rochester has so much potential,” Colon says about the city’s public school district. “The students have the brains. They have the inspiration. They have the energy. But sometimes they just don’t have the connections—those role models that can really steer them toward the right direction. I feel that if I’m being that role model, being that mentor, being that educator, they will be able to see that it’s possible to achieve your dreams, to reach for your goals.”
—Jen Roach, May 2017