Assistant Director of Service Learning and Community Engagement
Montclair State University, Montclair, N.J.
Montclair State Faculty, Professional Staff and Librarians, Local 1904
When your job title has "service" in it, people expect you to be outer-directed. But for Krystal Woolston, helping others is more than a job: It’s a calling and a gift.
Krystal Woolston (center) with her crew of Superstorm Sandy volunteers.
Woolston is Assistant Director of Service Learning and Community Engagement at Montclair State University in New Jersey. In that job, she sets up opportunities for MSU students to do service projects like tutoring middle school students in nearby Orange, becoming part of AmeriCorps and, when disaster hits, organizing relief efforts. She has also brought opportunities to volunteer at local food banks to her union, the Montclair State Faculty, Professional Staff and Librarians.
When Superstorm Sandy wreaked devastation on the East Coast in October 2012, Woolston’s office organized fundraising, food and clothing drives, and cleanup and recovery efforts involving students. On top of that, she did demolition work on her own time and served breakfast every weekend in the New Jersey shore community of Bay Head until May 2013.
On one of those weekends, she ran into a youth leader from the Methodist church she had attended growing up. She learned about a volunteer opportunity in Haiti and, using her vacation time and her own resources, has joined rebuilding projects last year and this one. She has run service trips for students to New Orleans, for rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina, and to Asheville, N.C., where students work on hunger projects.
Woolston says she got the volunteering bug in sixth grade. As her teenage years became more challenging and she wound up living with one of her church’s youth leaders, volunteering was something they could do together when they agreed on nothing else. That experience helped her see, she says, “that when difficult things happen, you need someone to step in.”
That view is what informs her life today. “I believe that if you have something and you have an ability to help someone else, you have the responsibility to do that.”
Her colleague Dana Natale, a research development specialist in the university’s Office of Research and Sponsored Programs, is awed by the amount of personal time—nights, evenings, weekends, moments during the day “that most of us hoard for personal time—she is always willing to give to students and people who need her. It’s a joy to her.”
Jennifer Higgins, Local 1904 vice president for internal affairs, who nominated Woolston as an Everyday Hero, adds, "She is the quintessential self-made person who is focused on giving back to the community. It’s a calling."