Montreat College has always been nearby for Crystal Bryant, who was born and raised in Western North Carolina, but her path to get here has been an extraordinarily difficult and long journey.

“It’s not so much about how I got to Montreat, but more about how God carried me to Montreat,” Bryant insisted.

Faced with tough medical diagnoses and a long road of major surgeries, Bryant wasn’t sure she would even make it to her 21st birthday. She spent most of her teens and 20s fighting to live and gain a normal life, but when it seemed there was no hope left, God delivered a specialist who has been by her side ever since.  This angel, as Bryant describes her, gave her purpose and more quality of life than she deemed imaginable.

A self-described intellectual, Bryant always did well in school and had a dream to someday become a psychologist. However, her medical condition forced her to give up a normal trajectory academically. After years of surgeries and a better prognosis, she earned an associate degree from the University of Phoenix online before attending UNC Asheville in person. She made it to her senior year, but life’s demands once again intervened. Before she graduated, she was forced to pause her classes to take care of those she loved most. 

Years later, Crystal’s husband kept planting a seed for her to renew her dream, and he felt that Montreat College was the right place for her. 

“I don’t even know how to express what Montreat has meant to me,” she said, holding back tears. “I prayed, ‘God, if you want this dream for me, it’s in your hands.’ If I can help even one person with everything I have been through, then it was all worth it to be able to put it to ultimate use as a psychologist.”

Guided by her loving husband, angels placed in her life, faith, determination, God, and her “Montreat family” that helped her along the way, Crystal graduated this summer with her psychology degree through Montreat’s Adult and Graduate Studies (AGS) program. Now, she is pursuing her Master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at Montreat College, and she took some time to share her inspiring story and reflect on surrendering to God’s plan for her life. 

Why did you choose Montreat College to resume your studies?
God and my husband. My husband looked at me one day, and he said, “I’m not going to let you sacrifice anything else for what you are meant to do.” His unconditional love and desire to always fight for my greatest happiness greatly helped bring me here. I was concerned I had reached a point in life where my dream was no longer attainable, but he convinced me to pick up the phone and call Montreat. Then, the rest of it was in God’s hands and Montreat’s hands. Both took me in the palm of their hands, created the path, and delivered me here today in the ways that counted the most. The second I made the decision to attend Montreat, it was like I was on a path for God, and now, here I am in the Clinical Mental Health Counseling program. I’m not sure it’s even sunk in yet. 

What makes Montreat College special to you?
Montreat is a way, not a series of choices. They want you to succeed. The AGS program is brilliant. It’s an amazing opportunity and blessing from God to experience life and academics at Montreat. 

Did your credits transfer to Montreat College?
Sadly, so many years had gone by since my classes at UNC Asheville, so a lot of the criteria had changed. It was a little shocking to learn I still needed to complete two years, but my advisor was absolutely amazing. He sat down and said, “I know this is not what you were expecting, but we will put you on the right trajectory, and we can guarantee that if you stay on this trajectory, you will graduate.” I could not have asked for more support from admissions, advisors, professors, and financial aid.  Every one of them played a significant role in successfully getting me here! 

How many classes did you take at a time?
I took two to three classes every eight weeks.

What is your goal after you graduate with your master’s degree?
My goal is to use all the physical and mental pain I have been challenged with to affect positive support and change for others. I want to ultimately be the difference in someone else’s life as a CMHC and, God willing, as a clinical psychologist. 

How have Montreat’s flexible schedule and online courses helped you?
Montreat has made every difference for me because being a full-time student on campus was not attainable for me. There’s truly something special about Montreat and the atmosphere, even in an online format. Everybody wants you to succeed. Sometimes, I forgot I was online because I felt very, very connected.

What advice would you give to someone considering Montreat College’s AGS program?
Your education is not something you can take lightly. You need to know you’re going to a place that will give you their full support in helping you to be successful. I wouldn’t put my academic life in anybody’s hands but Montreat’s.

What makes Montreat’s AGS program special?
The CMHC program has always been desperately needed in our Western North Carolina community. It’s a model of what other places should strive to be. Montreat and their AGS programs are the saving grace and godly difference that has saved me in every way spiritually, financially, academically, personally, and professionally. All I have ever truly wanted to do was to be the difference in others’ lives. Now, God has given me the spirit, the divine interventions, and the tools through Montreat to see this calling come to realization every day. The AGS program at Montreat College has been the difference for me.