A bright light at the Boys and Girls Harbor

Jasmin K. Williams | 5/25/2011, 9:23 a.m.
Crystal Floyd (Jasmin K. Williams photo)

As the director of the successful Trio Upward Bound program at the Boys and Girls Harbor, Crystal Floyd has personally helped Harlem children change their lives for the better. She's been a friend, counselor, mother figure and guide. She's quick with kindness but also ready to give a swift kick of reality when needed--anything to steer kids on to the path of success, whatever that might be. She continues to go above and beyond her job description as she has done for nearly 40 years.

The Boys and Girls Harbor was founded in 1937 as a summer camp for underprivileged kids. The center, located at 1 E. 104th Street in Manhattan, offers a full array of educational, cultural and social services, including after-school programs, day care, preschool and college prep. The Harbor's goal is to prepare children for the future and help them reach their full potential. Floyd has been a particularly bright beacon of light, a fierce warrior and reluctant hero.

Despite her long history of service and scores of adoring kids, whose pictures and messages of affection cover the walls of her office, Floyd wonders what all the fuss is about--she's simply doing what she loves.

"I've been with the Harbor since November of 1974. I had just graduated from college and was looking for a job. I ran into a friend who was starting a new program here. I was hired as an alcohol prevention trainer. We went into schools and talked about the dangers of alcohol. We took high school students to a camp that we had in East Hampton and we trained them to be peer counselors. We would teach them about the dangers of alcohol. They would, in turn, go back to school and run groups with their peers," Floyd said.

"From there I worked as the director of the Right to Read program. We worked with students and adults. The oldest was 65 years old. Many of them wanted to go for their GED, but many of the programs at that time would not accept them because they were not scoring on a certain level. Our job was to bring them up so they could enter a GED program," she said.

"From there I was in the professional health careers program, working with junior high school students to prepare them for different medical and health fields. Next was Trio Upward Bound and I've been here since 1982.

"When a student first comes in, they take a math and reading test so that we can assess their skills," said Floyd. "They come after school and do homework or receive tutoring. We have an assistant principal who is the reading specialist. The English teacher also runs the SAT prep course on Saturdays. They help the students prepare for Regents, finals and homework and get them to understand what they are not getting in school.

"Many students can't write. We want them to learn that before you can get out of high school and into college, you have to know the ins and outs of writing. We try to get them to begin to think analytically. That's why it's important to expose them to different experiences. They have all this desire and they know they have to move beyond this point. That's what keeps me going, to see an individual move beyond a point where they were stuck," she said.