Crystal Tolbert

Interview with Crystal Tolbert
Marquette University Office of Public Affairs
April 27, 2012

Crystal’s personal mission is clear – she wants to teach in the Milwaukee Public School System.

Crystal got an early start working with children from the community.  Three years ago, she responded to an email from her advisor about an opportunity to serve children in a tutoring capacity.  Crystal thought it sounded interesting and knew it would mesh with her academic calendar.

In addition to education, Crystal majors in English and has a deep interest in making literacy a reality for students in need.  She brought this specialty interest when she met Robert Byrd of Bridging the Gap and College of Education personnel.  The tutoring program for a broad section of children in the community (and housed in Marquette’s College of Education) was a perfect blending of worlds for Crystal and her commitment to social justice.

Crystal used this energy to organize her group of children selected to receive services through the tutoring program.  Split up into grades, Crystal administered a reading attitude survey, had the children read to her and gave them appropriate levels of readers to choose from.  The group built connections with each other.  In fact, Crystal says they built their own community.

Even though the Bridging the Gap reading academy has since dissolved, Crystal continues to feel passionate about such programming.  “It is more than a privilege [to serve in this kind of capacity],” she says.  “It gives young students college campus exposure and makes them feel important and worthy to say they are going to college.  Anything you can do outside the classroom is huge.”  There is no failure here.  A platform has been built.  It just has to be reinvigorated.  Hope lives here.

Crystal currently pursues her academic work in Elementary Education, but still finds time to volunteer in the Hartman Literacy and Learning Center.  Here her goal is to help children increase the level of reading competency and word fluency through guided reading.  Crystal is also affiliated with Pearls for Teen Girls where she writes lesson plans and works with two groups of students in their freshman and sophomore high school years (two days a week).  Crystal says the program is near and dear because she was a “Pearl girl” and served as an office intern in her senior year of high school.

Whether she knows it or not, Crystal is a model for positive and constructive behavior.  It isn’t overwhelming though.  “I have the passion.  It isn’t a chore.  I just want to make a difference.”

On behalf of the kids she tutored under his program, Robert A. Bryd, Jr. expresses his gratitude and reflects on the good fortune everyone had in Crystal’s presence.  He only wishes her well.