By Tiffany Contreras
She grew up in an alcoholic, substance-abused home and had to relocate, leaving everything she had ever known. While many would turn to a dark path during hard times, Crystal Hatch turned to a path that forever changed her life.
Hatch grew up in San Clemente, California, where she witnessed her mother and older sister struggle with alcohol and substance addiction, which landed her mother in prison and, unfortunately, in a grave. “I grew up watching these two beautiful, intelligent women struggle and throw away all of their potential.” However, there was one thing that held her together when she had to witness such tragedy. “I’ve always found solace in films,” she shares. “No matter what I’m going through, good or bad, I turn to movies. I let myself get lost in other worlds and live different lives for a few hours.”
Soon after, Hatch was adopted by a man who had known and loved her and continued to raise her in San Clemente. This experience allowed her to continue her passion for films, which led her to find herself more excited to watch the behind-the-scenes portions of movies than the film itself. The solace she felt inspired her to set her goal and focus on becoming a filmmaker the second she realized being a filmmaker was a career choice, and she knew that began with college. “Getting a college degree always seemed like the first step to creating a healthy future for myself, so it has always been my number one priority.” Though, making college a number one priority had its own set of challenges, but she was determined to meet her goal.
Hatch began working and going to school full time, even when it seemed to become too much. She would go to school at 8 a.m., change into her work clothes in her car at 5 p.m., go straight to work by 6 p.m., get off work at 2 a.m., and repeat the process nearly everyday. Somehow, she managed to obtain a 4.0 grade point average, never receiving less than an A in any class. “I don’t believe in excuses,” she testifies. “I don’t believe I’ll get anywhere in life by simply wanting it. I know that I have to put in hard work, time, energy, and sometimes even blood, sweat and tears to get where I am going. Because I know that I am willing to put all of that in, I am confident that I will achieve my goals.” One of which had always been to attend one of the nation’s most prestigious film schools, according to the Hollywood Reporter: UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and Television – and that she has achieved.
After submitting her application to UCLA – which featured her accomplishment of obtaining an Associates of Arts degree in Mass Communication from College of the Desert in the Fall of 2013 – she opened a letter that changed her life. “The morning I received an email from UCLA, stating that I had been chosen for a transfer interview, I was blown away,” she recalls. “I immediately called the important people in my life and screamed at them that I’d gotten an interview. I was house-sitting at the time and even danced with my friends’ dogs and ran around their yard and yelled to the neighbors. They couldn’t care less, but I was so excited.”
Hatch arrived to the UCLA campus for her interview and found herself pacing back and forth for three hours due to her nerves. However, her nerves quickly disappeared when she was sitting with her three interviewers. “It was as though I was exactly where the universe wanted me to be,” she says. “When my time was up and I left the office, I couldn’t stop smiling. I had never felt so confident about anything in my life. I couldn’t help but be proud of all of my hard work over the last handful of years because it had gotten me to exactly where I wanted to be.”
Not only was this a miracle for a girl who had dreamt to be in the film industry as a little girl, but also for an impressive résumé that she will get to share. Over 20,000 people applied to UCLA this year; and of those applying to the film program, they chose only 30 students to interview for transfer positions. In addition, however, of those 30 students, only 15 were accepted. Hatch’s nerves quickly turned to excitement. “When I got the acceptance letter, saying I was one of the 15, I just smiled.” Although she had many people telling her that she would not reach her goals, along with all odds stacked against her, she proved that those who doubt have no bearing on what a person is capable of. Instead, she used their negativity as fuel for success. “Hard work really does pay off.”
As a result of all of her hard work and incredible achievements, she credits her father for encouraging her to never give up. With a career as a police chief and children of his own, the man she calls her father chose to adopt and raise her, even though he “could have easily walked away and avoided the added stress of a kid with a complicated life,” says Hatch. “My dad is my superhero, and I strive everyday to make him proud because he took a chance on me when no one else would.” Just as he gave her a chance, she gives College of the Desert a chance by giving advice to those who may be in the boat she was in for most of her life.
“As community college students, we’re generally all in a similar financial boat,” she begins. “We don’t have anyone paying for us to live in dorms at Ivy League universities or buying us cars and paying for our summer trips abroad. It can definitely get overwhelming when it becomes difficult to juggle school, work, familial obligations and still try to have a social life.” However, she shares what she did that helped her succeed and stick through the difficult times. “Imagine your life ten years from now. Where do you want to be? What do you want to have achieved or be working toward? Then look at your life right now and figure out if you’re on the right path to achieving these goals. Are the people you surround yourself with going to help you or hinder you?” Ultimately, she kept herself grounded with positive people and a mindset that enabled her to beat the odds. “You just have to look at the big picture and know that all the decisions you make now affect your future, but it is entirely up to you how they will affect it.”