Crystal Gray's educational journey

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          Crystal Gray tutors student Ella Mathias in geometry


Crystal Gray’s journey to education and recovery began with a 21-mile walk — a walk home to Coos Bay after having been released from a police station in a neighboring town.  It had been her second arrest and, on that walk, she decided it would be her last. During the seven hour walk, starving and with bloodied feet, Crystal vowed to herself and the world that if she could break through her addiction, she would do something meaningful with her life. And she did just that.

Crystal entered the Transitional Education program at Southwestern in 2014 and a few months later she had earned her GED. “The staff members within the Transitional Education program helped me to see the potential that I had all along.  The program inspired me by giving me the confidence to not only obtain my GED, but to further my education.”

The Transitional Education program houses the college’s GED, adult education, and English as a Second Language (ESL) programs and is designed for students who need assistance transitioning into or back into education or into the workforce. Meredith Stone, director of the program says, “Our students come to us from a wide range of backgrounds. Many of our students come to us with barriers in their life that prevented them from earning a high school diploma. We help our students overcome these barriers and obtain their GED, but our services do not end there. We then help the students transition either into college or the workplace. The goal of our department is to help our students achieve their life goals and support themselves.”

The program, previously housed in the Newmark Center, is now part of the Laker Learning Commons in Tioga Hall.  The LLC also houses the Tutoring and Writing Centers, study rooms, and a computer lab and Transitional Education students have access to it all. “When I came to Southwestern,” Stone says, “I remember telling the Dean that moving the program back onto the campus was a wise choice.  These students should be and are part of the campus community.  Sure, it can be slightly intimidating at first, but after students set foot here on the third floor, they know they have found a supportive environment where they can learn.” And often times, students find a home — just as Crystal did by later becoming a degree-seeking student, a student worker, and peer tutor.

Crystal has thrived at Southwestern since completing her GED. “My time at Southwestern has been the best time of my life.  I have been surrounded by many supportive people who all wish to see me succeed. I am excited to see what the future holds,” she says. Crystal will graduate this spring with a 4.0 GPA getting her Associate of Arts/Oregon Transfer Degree, Associate of General Studies degree, and an Associate of Science degree. Crystal is also currently president of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society. Crystal has been accepted to Portland State University’s Honor’s Program for fall 2017 where she will pursue a bachelor’s degree in social work.  She credits her recovery to the social workers who helped her through her addiction with constant support and fair treatment. Those actions struck a chord with Crystal and have inspired her to help others in the same way with a career as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker.

“It will be a sad day when we say goodbye to Crystal, but she is destined for great things,” says Stone.  “We are all very proud of her and she is a great example of what never giving up on yourself or your education looks like.”


For more information about Southwestern's Transitional Education programs contact 541-888-1593 or visit: