Student Commencement Speaker
Finds Her Voice, Future
In June of 2017, Crystal Williams had reached her peak.
Or, so she thought.
"When I graduated from Rancho Verde High in 2017, I was pretty sure that I had reached my potential," Williams said. "I was an average student, with no known talents other than talking a lot. I didn't think I had a place in this world. I honestly doubted if I was going to make it anywhere in life since I just felt I had no purpose, nothing to give the world."
Was she ever wrong. Williams, 20, will graduate and transfer to California State University, Fullerton to study communications. But before she does, Williams, the 2020 student commencement speaker, will address the graduating class remotely when the College holds its first-ever campus-wide virtual graduation ceremony on June 12 at 5 pm due the state's stay-at-home order.
She said it was learning about the First Year Experience, a program that enables students to successfully transition from high school to college. That experience taught Williams that high school was literally just the first step in her life and was not the peak of her potential.
"I thought I could get my general education out of the way and then figure out what I wanted to do or (perhaps) come out of it with a talent," she said.
Little did Williams know that decision would lead her to find herself and discover a passion for activism.
"My freshman year I joined the Music Club," she said. "I had bought a bass and wanted to find a teacher to help me learn (the instrument). I went to a meeting where there was a room full of people. The president asked if anyone could make it to the ICC meetings on Wednesdays at 12:30 pm, and I remember no one raised their hand.
Eventually, Williams raised her hand.
"So, I became the ICC representative for Music Club that year," she said.
By her second year, Williams was an active member of the Associated Students of Moreno Valley College (ASMVC), serving as the student co-director of ICC.
"I never interacted with the student government outside of the ICC meetings," she said. "I always walked past them and never went to any events."
Then in the spring of 2018, Iiyshaa Youngblood, who had been elected vice president of ASMVC, approached Williams about becoming the ICC director.
"I was like 'nope,'" she said. "I tried to avoid her at every cost. I was interested, but I was very afraid of walking into the unknown."
In the summer, Williams had a change of heart and applied to be ICC co-director. Little did she know this was all leading to a statewide role in advocating for students. She ran and was voted communications officer for Region IX, serving on the Student Senate of California Community Colleges. The mission of the Student Senate for California Community Colleges is to pursue policies that will improve student access, promote student success, engage and empower local student leaders, and enrich the collegiate experience for all California community college students.
The Senate is recognized by the California Community Colleges Board of Governors and Chancellor's Office as the official voice of students in system participatory governance. Further, the Senate is recognized by the California State Legislature, Office of the Governor, California Student Aid Commission, and other state agencies as the official voice of students in legislative and policy advocacy. The Senate is also recognized by local associated student organizations as the official voice of students in regional support and development.
In May of 2019, she ran for the Regional Affairs director of Region IX and won. As director, Williams was tasked with running the region and representing the region's 12 colleges on the Board of Directors. At the 2020 General Assembly in April, Williams was part of the first-ever virtual assembly. There were over 200 individuals on the teleconference, 85 of them voters who passed an updated constitution, new bylaws, a three-year strategic plan, and 23 resolutions.
"This year is what really changed me for the better," said Williams, whose term ends June 30. "You don't need a title to make changeâ€¦(it is about) inspiring yourself to use your voice. (Now) it is about passing down your knowledge so the people coming up behind can go further than you did.
"Going to Moreno Valley College is the best decision I have made so far, because my life has completely changed. It wasn't because of the College itself; it was because of the amazing people I met along the way who truly gave me a new outlook on life."
She hopes the graduating class of 2020 feels the same way.
"I want the Class of 2020 to know that everyone has the power to change the world around them by speaking up. We impact people's lives daily all around us, and when you realize the power you have, and start using it for the better, things will start changing."