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Crystal Ramirez

Crystal Ramirez doesn't really remember her father, who left when she was very young, leaving Crystal's teenaged mother to support three children on her own. With very little money to go around, Crystal said she had to wear the same clothes most of the time and didn't have the luxury of having books and other school supplies at home. As a result, she quickly fell behind her peers at school. She was often teased because she couldn’t read like other third graders and didn’t have any friends.

When Crystal was seven her mother remarried, but her stepfather was both physically and verbally abusive. She can remember being hit regularly with shoes, belts and glass bottles, and said her stepfather made her and her brother go to school with long-sleeved shirts and pants to hide any marks or bruises. He also sexually abused Crystal and her younger sister and told her if she said anything to anyone, he would kill her mother and siblings. The abuse finally ended when she was 12 and her mother divorced him. By then Crystal was angry at everyone in her life. She also acted up in school, but her 8th grade English teacher, Mr. Dick, refused to send her to the office.

"No matter what I did, he just wouldn’t give up on me," said Crystal. "He helped me bring all of my grades up." Because of Mr. Dick, Crystal learned how to trust people and since then has had one teacher every year who truly cared about her. Thanks to these dedicated teachers and Crystal’s inner strength, she says she now has excellent grades and—even more importantly—a better life.