There is good all around us. Don’t think so? Then read this article in The Gadsden Times about Crystal Casey and the long road she has traveled to get a college education. It’s a story about the inner strength of someone who started life on a very bumpy road and about people who were there to encourage and support her along the way.
“Graduating from Gadsden State Community College is a moment to remember. For many graduates, it’s the beginning of a wonderful career. For others, it’s one phase on their educational journey. Every graduate has a story about how he or she got there: the trials, challenges and triumphs.
Crystal Casey, 42, is one of more than 200 graduates who will participate in Gadsden State’s fall commencement ceremony at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Wallace Hall Fine Arts Center on the Wallace Drive Campus.
Casey dropped out of school in the ninth grade and moved in with a friend’s family; she paid $35 a week for living expenses.
“I’d get up at 5 a.m. every day to go make hush puppies for a fast-food restaurant to pay the rent,” she said. “I worked job after job, just trying to self-support.”
“I had no life skills, so it was hard for me to make good decisions,” Casey said. “I really wavered from the ages of 17 to 23. I knew I needed an education to get my life on track, but I didn’t even know where to start.”
In 2000, Casey tagged along with a friend who moved to Baton Rouge, Louisiana. There, she got a job at a boot store. A young police officer named Brian Casey came in to buy required boots. They hit it off, and they were married three months later.
They lived in Baton Rouge for two years before moving to Madison County, where Brian worked as a game warden at Monte Sano State Park. Cheaha State Park brought the Caseys to Calhoun County, where he now works as an internal affairs investigator for the State of Alabama.
Nine years after the Caseys married, their son Fisher was born prematurely. “He was born at eight months … and only weighed 3 pounds,” she said. “He has Down syndrome and was born with holes in his heart.”
However, he is a happy, thriving third-grader at White Plains Elementary School.
Two years after Fisher’s birth, Brian encouraged his wife to work toward getting her GED.
Casey went to the Cheaha Career Center on Gadsden State’s Ayers Campus and started studying for her GED. “It only took me about six weeks,” she said. “I did pretty well on it considering I didn’t even finish the ninth grade.”
Once she earned her GED, Casey decided to continue her education and enrolled in general studies courses. She had to take remedial math — twice. Then, she met Dr. Sara Wheeler, a math instructor at Gadsden State’s McClellan Center.
The student who failed math twice eventually was hired as a tutor for ADA students, veterans and students struggling in math. For the past two semesters, she also worked as a peer tutor in the Cardinal Tutoring Center.
In December 2016, she earned an associate degree in general studies and won the Outstanding Math Student Award. This year, she was honored with the Everyday Hero Award given by the Gadsden State Cardinal Foundation to those who make a difference in the lives of others or have bravely endured hardships or struggles.
“I have come a long way from being a high school dropout,” she said.
Tuesday, she will receive her second associate degree, this time in paralegal studies. She already is working as a paralegal at Padula Law Firm.”
What a wonderful, wonderful story. Especially at this time of the year and especially in 2018.