The halls of McLain High School are a welcoming sight for Crystal Garcia.
“It’s like your second home and you really don’t want to leave,” she said.
When she first stepped foot inside, school wasn’t her main focus.
“Part of my freshman year I used to be a little bit rebellious,” she said.
But Crystal quickly chose to take a different path, not wanting any opportunities to slip by.
“I decided that I want to do better,” she said.
Since then, Crystal has jumped to the top five of her class.
“I’m really proud of myself,” she said.
While in high school, Crystal even took advantage of opportunities to better herself outside of the classroom.
“She’s really intelligent, but not braggy about it. And loves to be about herself and get things done,” Victoria Hall said.
Crystal joined the Tulsa Debate League, believing it would give her confidence and help her better master the English language.
“The reading part was really hard for me to understand it, but I would go through it with the debate coach and understand it better, and to have a better sense of arguments,” she said.
Crystal also wanted to lead her class, becoming the senior class secretary.
“I wanted to get involved and make our senior trips and prom better,” she said.
But she did not take on these challenges for herself, she did it for her classmates.
“That’s my first priority, other people. I feel like I care more about others than myself because I want my classmates to succeed,” she said.
This was obvious from the beginning of her high school journey - McLain hadn’t had a girls soccer team in years, so Crystal stepped in. Starting a high school team from scratch is no easy task. Crystal rallied players and kept up their spirits. What started as a team of seven, grew each year.
“I got more girls to join, and from there we had a team,” she said.
Her coach and teacher Jordann Tamayo said without a leader like Crystal, the girls at McLain would not have gotten to play soccer.
“I sometimes call her coach because she tells me what to do. Depends on the day,” she said.
It’s a responsibility Crystal enjoys. Knowing she has opportunities to better the lives of those around her.
“I don’t know, I like telling people what to do and like leading them to do better,” she said.
Crystal’s mother and older brothers are from Guatemala, they came to Tulsa because her mom wanted her family to have a better life. Crystal says life can be hard for an immigrant family living in the United States.
“What some people don’t see is what you go through as a family,” she said
Immigration is a topic she is passionate about.
“People don’t see your side of the story, they just see what they hear, and I just want to put my voice out there,” she said.
Crystal said she hopes more Americans can set aside their assumptions and view people individually. And in doing so, gain a new appreciation for the rich, vibrant culture that immigrants add to our nation.
“A lot of the stuff here, in America, is like the culture of the Latino population," she said.
Crystal also has a love for the arts, saying it sets her free.
“There’s no wrong in art,” she said.
Her plan after graduation is to join the Army reserves while attending Tulsa Community College. She hopes to be a police detective one day, where she can help people in need.
“I feel like no one would see a girl like me doing something like that, and I want to prove people wrong,” she said.
Crystal said she wouldn’t feel so successful if not for her McLain family.
“The administration and the teachers just really want to help you,” she said.
She encourages others at McLain to stay focused because they will be rewarded in life after graduation.
“If you really focus in school and just follow directions it will go by so quick,” she said. “Throughout life, you are going to get told what to do, even wherever you work you are going to get told what to do, and you may not like to do something, but you still have to do it, even if it’s your job.”
“I’m excited to see all the great things that will come out of you,” Jordann said.
Victoria Hall said, “The way that you feel now, and how strong you are for yourself, and how dedicated you are to doing what’s right, and doing good things, don’t ever lose sight of why you are doing it and keep being that person. Because never once have you stopped being the person that does the right thing.”
Crystal’s parting advice for future Titans, find your mentor and believe in yourself.
“Someone believes in you and there is someone out there. And even if there is just one person that believes in you, no matter what, you should still try,” she said.