When Home means Community

Story by Elberta McKnight

Turn back the page to 1993. At age 14, Krystal, who is from a dysfunctional family, was pregnant with her first child. She was told she could no longer attend high school with her peers because she set a “bad example.” She was being sent to a school for pregnant teens called Second Chance. To Krystal, just the name was offensive, let alone the words “bad example.” She pleaded her case to the high school vice-principal and was allowed to attend the school of her choice. One month into her freshman year, she gave birth to her son. But she couldn’t shake the words “bad example.”

At the time, Krystal didn’t realize it, but her inner drive was to be the best example possible. Especially as a young mother. True to that, she became the first in four generations of her family to graduate from high school, but she didn’t do it quietly. Her senior year she was nominated to represent her high school as a state representative for an organization focused on jobs for graduates. It was in this capacity she attended a conference in Boston and gave her first public speech to 500 local educators and business owners about the importance of supporting youth and equipping them with the skills needed to excel in life. In that moment she knew she was destined to be a pioneer and inspire others to be their best, regardless of their circumstances.

Krystal Arborgast didn’t start out with the home life she wanted, It’s taken years-she just never gave up.

 Now, the question became how. Her first husband and the father of her children was from San Sebastian, San Marcos in Guatemala. He often spoke of home and his family in Central America. Krystal began learning Spanish. After about a year and a half, she had mastered the language and to this day can speak it sans her Boston accent; a feat she’s proud of. But that’s not why she learned the language. Given her trying childhood, she yearned for an extended family. Krystal felt if she could master Spanish, perhaps she could better connect with her in-laws. Upon graduating from high school, she went to meet them. She not only fell in love with them, but she was also captivated with the entire Latino culture.

Within the beauty, though, there were ashes. She vividly remembers the day a father begged her to take his daughter back to America where the child would have opportunities Guatemala couldn’t offer. That encounter never left her. Krystal eventually moved from Massachusetts to Georgia, still determined to help people in Central America. She wrote a proposal and circulated it among area churches requesting support to start youth missionary work in Guatemala. Perimeter Church replied. Her first missions trip was through Medical Missions Ministry with Herman Alb. In true Krystal form, she asked Dr. Alb if she moved to Guatemala, would he continue making mission trips there.

Within three months, Guatemala became her home. She began hosting missionary teams from the United States and was responsible for coordinating partnerships between the missionary ministry and local churches. Between helping with missions, Krystal also worked as an English teacher. It didn’t take long before she noticed a trend: students between the ages of 12 to 15 were either dropping out of school or simply not enrolling.

She wanted to know why. Pressed to find the answer, she was told the children were migrating to the U.S. and Mexico for work. “It broke my heart,” she said. “I created a partnership with the city council, schools and churches to create a scholarship project called Youth Empowerment. With a $10,000 donation from a church in Boston, we were able to provide afterschool tutoring, youth mentorship, and scholarship funds to pay for three years of education costs for 65 at-risk students. I am still in contact with them to this day.”

That’s not all that fills Krystal’s time. Health and family brought her back to Georgia. This summer, Krystal will open her own insurance agency and fulfill yet another goal. Through the agency, she intends to create scholarships for children in need. “We are in the process of creating a foundation to provide scholarships to children in Guatemala and provide support to children in need in Hall county. Our agency’s purpose is to provide a solid foundation to protect our community and to empower those around us.” Krystal’s husband, Jehovany, will be by her side. He’s a gifted artist who uses wood as his canvas. He’s able to create an exact likeness of a home’s exterior by burning it into a piece of wood. Pair that with Krystal’s art of bringing people together and the Arbogasts have created more than a home; they have a sense of community.

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