2007 graduate had a beaming smile and a passion for teaching

Crystal Crawford, a 2007 Biola graduate and former resident assistant, was killed in a drive by shooting late last month. Friends, co-workers and professors share some of their most vibrant memories of her.

Crystal Crawford after her graduation in 2007. At Biola she was a resident assistant in Alpha Chi and a member of the Red Tide dance group. She kept in close contact with Biola friends even after she graduated.

Crystal Crawford after her graduation in 2007. At Biola she was a resident assistant in Alpha Chi and a member of the Red Tide dance group. She kept in close contact with Biola friends even after she graduated.

Michael Farr and Kathryn Watson

Biola 2007 graduate Crystal Crawford, a former resident assistant in Alpha Chi and an avid dancer, was shot and killed in a drive by shooting in Inglewood May 30. She was 24.

Crawford was a Christian education major while at Biola and had been teaching preschool at St. John’s Lutheran Church in El Segundo since spring of last year. Fellow teachers, former professors and close friends describe her as having a cheery attitude, wearing a perpetual smile and being a loyal friend.

“She was just one of those people who talked to everyone,” said Patty Ginossi, director of St. John’s Lutheran Preschool. “She had a smile that would light up a classroom.”

Senior Shalom Bako, a close friend of Crawford’s for four years, said since her death he has spent hours looking at photos of them together, and it’s difficult to find one in which she isn’t smiling.

“It’s hard to picture that you’re never going to see someone smile again,” Bako said.

Crawford was waiting with friends in a car parked on the side of the road when suspected gang members drove by, shouted, and then opened fire at the car she occupied, according to news reports. Crawford was was taken to a hospital in a coma and died soon afterward, Bako said.

Investigations are ongoing, but police have said she was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Investigators suspect she and her friends were mistaken for rival gang members.

The friendships she diligently kept up on will be her strongest legacy, Bako said. She stayed in contact with Biola friends, even though she graduated two years ago. He noted that she was the first person to show up to his last birthday party and one of the last to leave, even though she had to wake up early for work the next day.

“She definitely loved her friends. She was always around her friends,” he said.

While at Biola Crawford was a member of the Red Tide dance group, which often performed at Biola events like Midnight Madness. She kept her fellow dancers in good spirits during late-night practices when everyone else was grumpy, said Bako, who was in the dance group.

Teri Johnson, a 2008 graduate, met Crawford as a freshman when Crawford was her RA. The two would later became best friends and roommates for the remainder of Crawford’s time at Biola. Crystal enjoyed meals with friends more than almost anything else at Biola, Johnson said, and could usually be found in the Caf if she wasn’t in her dorm or in class.

“We’d spend literally two hours or more in the Cafeteria, just hanging with our friends,” Johnson said. “That [was probably] her favorite spot.”

As an RA in Alpha Second West (SOUL) her sophomore year, Crawford spent her days pouring into the lives of the girls on her floor.

Her fellow RA, Melanie (Young) Peters, who graduated in 2006, recalled that Crawford would take prayer requests from the girls and post them on the wall of her room. Crawford made each person on the 60-girl hall feel treasured and special, whether it was through shouting girls’ names from down the long hall or asking them questions about their daily lives, Peters said.

“The first thing about Crystal that anyone noticed, whether you knew her well or you didn’t know her well: she was very passionate — very exuberant,” Peters said. “Passionate about her walk with the Lord, passionate about her residents, passionate about school, passionate about … everything that she was interested in.”

At the end of the school year, Crawford fused her passion for dance and love for people by presenting an interpretive dance for the girls, recalled Nicole Jauregui, a 2008 graduate who was a freshman on Crawford’s floor.

“She was always praising Jesus, through words, song and dance, and she taught me to not be ashamed to praise our Jesus in any way possible,” Jauregui said.

Crawford was committed to helping inner-city youth, said Michael Anthony, chair of the Christian education department. Crawford was a student in several of his classes, and he remembers her as a being a “gifted communicator.”

“She was committed to going back to the inner city to reach a needy segment of our population. It’s very unfortunate that that inner city connection is what ultimately cost her her life,” Anthony said.

It’s been more than a week since her death, but Bako says the reality of it is still hard to grasp. He said he was hesitant to visit the memorial that had been placed at the site of her death because “it would make it so real.” He sometimes lingers over her name while going through his phone’s contact list. He wonders whether he should call.

“Because at times I don’t believe it. And I’m scared to because of the reality of it.”

Crystal, the youngest girl in her family, is survived by her brothers, Jordan Fifer, 17, and Jonathan Fifer, 20, as well as sisters Na-Tasha Carter, 30, Floryence Stinson, 33 and Tenisha Williams, 35.

Crystal’s talents were evident to her family from an early age. As a 5 and 6-year-old girl, Crystal, who lived in the Los Angeles area her entire life, performed the same dance routines in the studio as classmates four times her age, recalled her mother, Wanda Fifer Crawford.

“She was kind of like a little person that was before their time,” Crawford said. “I knew she had a gift. … She was gonna do well.”

Crystal’s brother, Jordan, said his sister also possessed a beautiful voice and a knack for rapping, both of which he enjoyed hearing around the house, in the studio and on the stage.

“She just did everything,” he said.

Growing up, Crystal attended church faithfully and was heavily involved. She was sensitive to her faith when choosing a college.

“She told me God told her to go to Biola,” said her mother, who said Crystal turned down numerous other schools.

Crystal’s most recent goal, her mother added, was to open up a home for children and council and tutor them in a decidedly Christian environment.

A funeral for Crawford was held at 11 a.m. Monday, June 15th at the New Creation Christian Faith Center in Los Angeles.

Biola is accepting donations on behalf of Crawford’s family. Checks should be made payable to Biola University, with Crystal’s name in the memo line. Cash donations are also being accepted. Donations can be dropped off at Metzger, or mailed to the school’s address: 13800 Biola Ave. La Mirada, CA 90639. Write “Donation for Crystal Crawford” on the envelope.
(Information from Bianca Oros)

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