Two years ago, when Kristal Vang’s mother took her four daughters to California after divorcing her husband, none of them could have imagined the horror that would ensue. Two weeks after leaving, Kristal’s father followed and found them at her grandmother’s house. While the children slept, her father shot and killed her mother and then turned the gun on himself. The children awoke to the bloodshed and Kristal still can’t erase the images from her mind. Counseling helped but no amount of counseling could overcome the knowledge that she and her siblings were cheated time out of time with their mom and dad.
Without parents, Kristal realized she would have to leave behind her own childhood and take on the responsibilities of her mom and dad. She and her younger sisters and older brother came back to Minnesota to live in a rented house next door to their aunt’s, paid with her parents’ social security death benefits.
Her daily routine since 10th grade: “I do my homework, check my sisters’ backpacks for parent letters and forms, help my sisters with their homework, cook dinner for us, clean up the house, read with my sisters, and finally get them ready for bed.”
Seeing Kristal at Harding High School, one would never know she’s gone through so much. She brings leadership and joy to her schoolwork, her classmates and her teachers. Besides her coursework, she participates in Multicultural Excellence Program (MEP) and Preparing to Achieve a College Education (PACE). When Kristal graduates, she’ll have earned 23 college credits through this program.
Kristal believes education is the key to everything, so she tries to be a role model for her sisters and to instill this value in them, too. “My parents raised me to be strong and to take care of my sisters. I want to live up to what my mom had in store for me. That helps me to be resilient.”
Kristal hopes to attend Augsburg College or the University of Minnesota to become a medical technician or dental hygienist. Kristal smiles and says, “I want to show my sisters that nothing can stop us."