As she stood in the doorway of yet another foster home clutching garbage bags filled with her belongings, 12-year-old Krysta Parrell would have had a hard time recognizing herself today – as a soon-to-be graduate of Bridgewater State University.
In fact, at that time going to college was the last thing on her mind. All she wanted was a place to put her things and a roof over her head.
“I thought, ‘Oh no, this isn’t going to work,’” she said.
But it did work, and for the last 10 years Krysta, who bounced between foster homes since birth, found her footing due in large part to Linda and Pete Close of Weymouth. For 18 years the couple has provided a home for foster children through the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families.
The lack of stability was understandably hard, and when she arrived at the Close home, she was angry.
“Krysta has been my most challenging child but my most rewarding,” Linda said, as her foster daughter prepares to collect her bachelor’s degree in social work. “It was tough the first few years, we weren’t sure we were going to make it… I just kept praying.”
The prayers were evidently heard, and over time trust was built. From that trust Krysta was able to develop the confidence she needed.
After high school she attended Massasoit Community College, where a glitch in the system accidently registered “human services” as her major.
“Initially I wanted nothing to do with social work, but after taking the core classes I fell in love with it,” Krysta said. “I realized that maybe this is my purpose, that maybe I was supposed to have gone through all of this in my life in order to do something good with it.”
Eventually she transferred to BSU because of its social work program. She opted to live in one of the residence halls, and upon stepping foot on campus immediately felt at home.
“The theme in my life was, ‘I wanted a place to put my stuff.’ It is a big thing for me. Living on campus I felt that I had my own area. Being part of the resident community opened up so many doors for me. I got so involved because of how welcome I felt,” Krysta said.
While at BSU, she went on study tours to Italy and Israel, and has been an orientation leader, vice president of the National Residence Hall Honorary, a research assistant in the Department of Social Work, member of the Program Council and sister of Alpha Sigma Tau.
Most importantly, Krysta started to share her story and emerge as a voice for students in foster care.
“I really think it’s a population that people don’t talk about, it doesn’t get recognized as much as it needs to be,” she said. “Many aren’t as open to sharing their story as I am, but I feel I needed to speak up, to help others. I’ve had to advocate for myself a lot and I don’t want others to feel they are alone, I want them to know there are resources.”
If anyone is proof that one can overcome circumstances, it’s Krysta. A lot has changed since that scared 12-year-old girl arrived at the Close’s house holding garbage bags full of belongings. Next year she is hoping to attend the University of North Carolina where she plans to pursue a master’s degree in social work.
Looking back at her time at BSU, tears welled up in her eyes.
“BSU has done so much for me that I can’t put it into words. I share my story because it is worth telling and I want it to change lives,” she said. “Bridgewater State University is my home and my family. I would not be who I am today if not for Bridgewater.”
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