Cristal Harris delivers commencement speech
Delta College Student Alumna, Crystal Harris, Perseveres Against All Odds in Pursuit of an Education
Jim Vergara
April 12, 2017

2011 Delta College graduate Cristal Harris was the college's first guest alumni speaker at this year's ceremony. Ms. Harris shared her inspiring story of perseverance against all odds in pursuit of an education. Though homeless at 18, her journey of success started at San Joaquin Delta College in Fall 2008. The Weston Ranch grad had ample experience in fine arts; she dreamed of being an artist who worked with chalk pastels. Initially, the truth of her existence dampened those ambitions. Cristal's life would pivot in another direction at Delta College.

'The staff, faculty, students, and administrators at Delta wove a fence of protection around me," said Harris. "It's no exaggeration that I had no future, no plans, no real goals and no tools for success. I came to Delta College hopeless, hungry, and afraid for the future ... I left Delta brimming with courage and full of the education needed to go to UCLA."

Cristal tells students that the first key to overcoming harsh circumstances and finding success is to seek help from those around you. 'There were many times when I doubted if tomorrow was worth the trouble. I looked to my support groups: the church, staff at Delta, faculty, etc. It reminded me that it was all worth it in the end."

Harris emphasizes that community colleges foster the success of real human beings - of people who are poor or challenged as outsiders in life's social strata. 'These people go on to become technicians, mechanics, college counselors - and even lawyers."

Delta College Alumna, Cristal Harris

Delta alumna Cristal Harris overcame many challenges, including homlessness, to achieve her dream of becoming a lawyer. Cristal’s inspiring journey started at #SJDeltaCollege, the #SmartStepForward.

Harris just graduated from The University of San Francisco's School of Law when Delta's commencement ceremony took place. Her goal is to help those less fortunate by becoming a public defender and law professor. These new dreams of service to the community were ignited at Delta College.

Cristal Harris is honored to have been selected the college's first alumni speaker and believes she is the embodiment of what a community college education fosters. "/ grew to have a vision, a dream and goal at Delta College. I no longer wanted to just exist; I wanted to impact the world in meaningful ways."

Cristal's commencement speech focused on finding the "why" of one's existence as a motivating force. She says it was her "why" that got her out of bed in the morning and put her to sleep at night. "One of my 'whys' is my niece Destiny. When I get tired of pulling another 6 a.m. a/1-nighter study session, I remember that Destiny is behind me. She needs me to be an example that she too can be a successful educated black woman."

Cristal Harris finishes, "It is imperative for students standing in the same shoes I once stood to discover who they can become -not just because someone told them, but because someone like them achieved it."