Recent Montgomery County Community College graduate Lydia Crush is usually a “behind the curtains” kind of performer.
“I love being behind the stage, or behind the camera,” she mentioned. “I like making other people happy.”
This past year, however, Crush has shined. Whether it was acting in the College’s production of The Laramie Project, working hard on an alternative spring break, or preparing to attend Bucknell University, Crush is center stage.
Raised in Montgomeryville, Crush graduated from high school in 2011. After dutifully applying to college, Crush was disappointed at the small amount of financial aid she was being offered and sought an alternative education.
Strangely, the answer came in the form of a Facebook advertisement.
The ad detailed Global Citizen Year, an organization which supports gap year programs abroad. Crush applied, was accepted, and left for Ecuador shortly after.
“It was phenomenal,” Crush said of the experience. “I went there and knew nothing about the country, nothing about the language. I had never even been on an airplane before.”
Although lacking formal language training, in many ways Crush had been preparing for such an adventure as Ecuador all her life through her interest in culture and communication.
“I’ve always loved languages. My grandparents are deaf, and recently my sign language has been atrocious, so I need to practice,” Crush shared. “But I’ve always loved words and the different ways you can communicate with people through language, and how culture is incorporated into language.
Although she’d always loved languages, volunteering in Ecuador and living with a host family inspired a love of Spanish for Crush, partly out of necessity.
“The first three months are the hardest because you don’t know how to explain anything, even simple things like I am hungry,” Crush insisted. “When learning makes a difference if you get to eat or not, if you feel safe or not, then all of the sudden there is a much more concentrated effort to apply yourself.”
The program worked for Crush, who came back partially fluent and with a passion for cultural exchange. On returning, Crush applied to Montgomery County Commuinty College, was accepted into the Honors Program and immersed herself in Spanish and campus involvement.
This past year Crush could be seen tutoring students in Spanish, on the Black Box Theater stage, and through her photographs published in The Montgazette. However the recent cultural experience that she most values was her involvement with the 2014 Alternative Spring Break. The group of students volunteered in Baltimore with The Samaritan Women, an organization which aids victims of sex-trafficking. For Crush, the trip reinforced her commitment to helping others regardless of cultural background.
“I get the most satisfaction out of having a physical and tangible result to my labors, and the harder it is the more I enjoy it,” Crush revealed. “I spent five days lugging mulch and working my butt off and it was really great because these women are being transitioned into a life of freedom…living in poverty you always get second best and you assume that you deserve second best. Working hard to make the landscape look nice for these ladies is just a taste of saying, you are worth something, people care about you, and you are of value.”
Although it’s been a busy period of time, Crush has appreciated all of her recent endeavors at the college while preparing to graduate.
“This spring semester was great because I was involved in so much more than I’d ever been involved with,” she said. “With the Spring Break trip and The Laramie Project, meeting people has made MCCC so much more meaningful.”
Moving forward, Crush is preparing to start a new cultural adventure complete with a change of scenery and plenty of hard work when she begins her studies at Bucknell University this upcoming fall. Her journey began last summer when she participated in the Bucknell Community College Scholars Program, a decision that initially left her divided.
“I was exceedingly excited about getting into the program, and at the same time terrified,” she admitted. “School has always been relatively easy for me, and people would say one of these days it’s going to get hard. I was so scared that Bucknell was going to be the thing that broke me.”
On the contrary, Crush was immediately taken by her six week summer experience at Bucknell and the new opportunity for growth that it presented.
“It completely turned,” she said. “The teachers are wonderful and they feel like family. We had a wonderful summer and I got to know so many people, people I became great friends with whom I never would have known if I hadn’t been a part of that program.”
Having applied and been accepted to Bucknell to complete her Bachelor’s degree in Spanish, Crush is spending the next six weeks on campus to train for her TA position come this fall. Of course, she’s also managed to fit a three-week visit to Ecuador into the summer.
Planning ahead, Crush isn’t even close to being done exploring new cultures and working diligently to help others.
“If I’m in the States after I graduate, I would really love to teach in rural schools. There’s not that much attention paid to rural poverty and it’s still a problem. Poverty is poverty, and there is less access to the outside world because geographically they are very isolated,” Crush shared.
Whether it’s teaching Spanish, ESL, or perhaps performing at a community theater, Crush is working both behind the scenes and center stage to make the world a better place.
~ Kelly Cox