Cristal Chavez

Last updated: 2008

Cristal Chavez

2008 Beat the Odds Honoree

Born to an alcoholic and drug addicted mother, Cristal Chavez’s obstacles in life began while she was still in the womb. The fifth child of nine, she and her siblings lived in poverty and suffered from severe neglect and abuse. Cristal has memories of playing with her siblings while unattended or being left with strangers while her mother was using or selling drugs. Her brother was hit by a car in front of their apartment while her mother was passed out. The family moved from place to place, sometimes having to beg friends or family for a temporary place to sleep. Cristal and her brothers and sisters were eventually removed from their mother’s home and split up several times. Cristal ended up living with her older sister who was only 19 years old. Despite her mother’s many problems, Cristal wanted to maintain her mother-daughter bond. When she would visit her mother, Cristal witnessed her mother’s continued drug use as well as paranoia and suicidal episodes, and she would try to keep her mother from attempting to kill herself. When Cristal was 12 years old her mother died of a drug overdose. Not long after suffering the trauma of losing her mother, Cristal’s 10 year old brother died of heart failure, a condition related to their mother’s drug use while her brother was in the womb. To help cope with her difficult childhood and loss of her mother and brother, Cristal devoted herself to striving for excellence in school and her extracurricular activities. She is now on her way to earning a full International Baccalaureate high school diploma, a testament to her ability to succeed in a rigorous academic environment. Cristal reflects on the past and looks to the future, “I want to go to college and see other places outside of California,” she explains. “I want to be someone and do something of significance.” Cristal hopes to be a social worker one day so that she can affect change in the lives of children who face many of the same tribulations that she has faced. The Children’s Defense Fund in honored to present Cristal Chavez as a 2008 Beat the Odds Award recipient.