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Crystal Huskey


Knoxville, TN

A story of injustice across the world had inspired me to make a difference in my own life.

I was 27. I had just written about Sakineh Ashtiani, an Iranian woman sentenced to death by stoning, on my blog. Tears poured as I wrote her story, due in part to sadness -- and in part to frustration at my inability to change any of it.

I had always considered myself a writer. I had always been passionate about human rights. Yet, I always held back. I was afraid to attempt to write, or too unsure to make up my mind to commit to it. I dabbled in this and that. Taught music.

But then, I was 27 with a 15-month-old and a newborn, and I was sobbing for a woman across the world who I had never met. I remember slamming the computer shut. I knew I didn't want to passively hear the news -- I wanted to help shape the stories we hear. I wanted to make sure that women like Sakineh weren't forgotten. I wondered if I could do a small part to keep stories like this alive, through the power of words.

After I collected myself, I Googled "Online International Relations Degree." A spark was lit inside of me. I made a phone call, registered, signed up for student aid, and started my graduate degree the following week. A story of injustice across the world had inspired me to make a difference in my own life.

It wasn't Harvard. It wasn't even a state school. But I got my degree and I learned what I needed to learn. I began to writing, for free at first, then $15 per article, then $75 per story. My editor was harsh with my work, which was necessary. So I bought "the Idiot's Guide to Journalism" and a few other guides to stop making rookie mistakes.

I pushed myself to get more experience. I wrote eight stories every week for a community newspaper. I pushed my double stroller to events. I carried a diaper bag on one arm and a camera, voice recorder, and notepad in the other. I started to notice a change. The more I did, the more I was capable of doing. And I never forgot my reason for starting all of this: to tell stories that mattered to me.

I was hired a year later to replace my editor. I hit my stride and finally felt confident with my talent. I kept making progress professionally and also with my sense of self. I caught my daughter one day with my name badge, saying to her little brother: "My name is Crystal Huskey, can I ask you a few questions?"

Now, four years after signing up for my first class, I edit five magazines in the Knoxville area. Here's what I learned: there is always a way to get what you want. You might not be very good at first, but eventually, you will be. You don't have to be the best in the world at what you do: you just have to go for it.