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Downtown Olympia Mural to Honor Homeless College Student

A Mural in Downtown Olympia will Honor a Thurston County Woman who Overcame Homelessness while she Pursued a College Degree

A mural in downtown Olympia will honor a Thurston County woman who overcame homelessness while she pursued a college degree. The painting will recognize Crystal Allenton’s resilience and achievements during her life’s journey. The image of Crystal is featured on the exterior of the historic Capitol Theater – adjacent to the building’s well-known free wall.

“I hope that anyone who sees this mural is inspired to take the first step to fighting for their future and their family,” said Allenton, who got her first peek of the finished work on April 16, 2021. Seattle-based street artist Jeff “Weirdo” Jacobson began work on the mural on April 2. Jacobson is known for his unique style of contemporary realism. His projects have celebrated Pacific Northwest culture and supported social causes important to the local community.

“This mural is a symbol of hope that belongs to everyone in Olympia and throughout the Puget Sound area,” said Jacobson. “Crystal’s life has been filled with tremendous challenges and achievements. Through my painting, I am conveying not just Crystal’s perseverance but the potential we all have as individuals and a community.” Olympia’s downtown commercial core has a tremendous reputation for the arts. The mural of Crystal adds to that tradition while also signaling renewed optimism for those who live and work in that area.

“Downtown Olympia has seen quite a few ups and downs – especially over the last year,” said Audrey Henley, executive director of the Olympia Film Society and owner of Revival Motors & Coffee. “Businesses and families have struggled, but we’ve also come together and provided help to those who need it. That’s why I love this mural project and how Crystal represents the wonderful spirit of this area.”

“I know many people have gone before and will come after me who will do anything necessary to make things better for their family,” added Allenton. “We struggle together, and we celebrate together.”

Crystal’s Story

Ten years ago, Crystal and her three kids escaped an abusive relationship. They were homeless, living in an Olympia area shelter as they put together the pieces of their shattered lives. It was a crossroads. Tough decisions had to be made.

Crystal had been enrolled in a degree program through WGU Washington. She dreamed of becoming a teacher. But without a permanent roof over her head, no one would have blamed her if she’d dropped out.

Still – on her own and a single mom – she knew education would be the catalyst for change in her life. She stayed in school, kept grinding.

“I look back at this journey and can't believe all that has happened,” said Crystal. “Despite all the tears, pain, trials and joys, I wouldn't change a thing. It is quite humbling to know that without staying in the homeless shelter, we wouldn't have made it – but it has also made me stronger.”

Fast forward to today, and Crystal has earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from WGU Washington. She works as a teacher and has taught special ed, English language, and music to students in the South Puget Sound area. She is currently teaching high school in Pennsylvania while her daughter studies ballet. Crystal returned to Olympia for the unveiling ceremony on April 16th. It was her first glimpse of the mural.

“I hope that this mural encourages and supports all who see it to pursue their dreams,” said Crystal. “Going to college, getting an advanced degree, or taking career risks can be daunting, but I believe that we should be doing what we love while making our community a better place.”

*Photo courtesy WGU Washington

About WGU Washington

WGU Washington is an online, competency-based university designed to expand access to higher education for Washington residents. In 2011, the Washington State Legislature created WGU Washington in partnership with nationally recognized Western Governors University.

WGU Washington is well-suited for busy, working adults and traditionally underserved student populations. The university provides students with individualized experiences and personalized guidance from dedicated faculty mentors and course instructors – from the time they enroll through graduation. WGU Washington is also committed to keeping tuition costs low. Students pay about half as much as their counterparts at similar institutions with tuition for most WGU Washington degree programs at approximately $7,000 per year.

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