After struggles, Brookfield grad looks to future

Crystal Montgomery heads to Brookfield Academy graduation.
Crystal Montgomery heads to Brookfield Academy graduation. (MICHAEL S. WIRTZ / Staff Photographer)
Posted: June 21, 2013

Crystal Montgomery says she has struggled with emotional obstacles since childhood.

But on Wednesday, Montgomery, 18, spoke as the valedictorian in front of 11 other graduating seniors at Brookfield Academy in Cherry Hill. Montgomery and her fellow classmates were applauded by about 100 faculty members, friends, and family.

"The struggles have brought us together," Montgomery said of the senior class. She said their success was the result of their ambition and ability to work as a team.

Montgomery, of Glassboro, has been attending Brookfield for three years. Brookfield, an alternative high school for students with behavioral issues, has let her help control her anger, she said.

The faculty "understood we were not like other kids," she said.

Montgomery has worked with school therapist Kristin Krieger since she enrolled. Krieger said Montgomery had "made some great strides from the beginning until now."

Montgomery said Brookfield encouraged her to develop her art skills - she has always liked to draw - and she now practices styles such as realism and anime.

Her mother, Melody, has been the consistent guiding figure in her life. "It's never been easy for her," Crystal Montgomery said of her mother.

Melody Montgomery, 49, said that while she had to take on the role of two parents, she never had second thoughts. Montgomery quit her job at a Wawa more than a decade ago to become a stay-at-home mother.

"Being a parent, I did what I had to do," Melody Montgomery said. "I don't regret any of it."

During her speech Wednesday evening, Crystal Montgomery honored her mother, saying she was her "biggest support system."

"She has been the one person I've had my entire life," Crystal Montgomery said. "Even when I was about to give up, she encouraged me to continue. Through the roughest of times, she was there and continues to be here. For that I would like to say, I love you, Mom."

The Montgomerys ran into an issue before graduation as her mother did not have a driver's license or a way to get to the graduation. At a resident's urging, a local limousine company, which wished to remain unidentified, gave the two a ride to the ceremony.

Melody Montgomery said her daughter had become more outgoing and more social in high school.

Crystal Montgomery said she wanted to become an animal control officer. In the fall, she will attend a program run through Gloucester County College as well as some art classes.

Her mother said she would be following paths into law enforcement made by other family members, including an uncle who is a U.S. marshal.

As her daughter's high school career was honored, Melody Montgomery said she was proud of Crystal's accomplishments.

"I've always seen the potential," she said. "It's exciting knowing all the hard work she's put in."

Contact Sean Carlin at 856-779-3237,, or follow on Twitter @SeanCarlin84.

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