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Crystal “Chachi” Santos, 31, is a warehouse line operator. In a life typcially filled with challenges for Crystal, 2020 began for her with a lot of hope.

Recently divorced, Crystal, a Brooklyn native, moved into a Brownsville homeless shelter in January with her 12-year-old son when the COVID-19 pandemic reached New York City. She had also graduated from a leadership program at the beginning of the year that she expected to propel her life to greater heights.

She said Momentum Education gave her professional development training to uncover gifts she was unaware she possessed and the confidence to become a leader. “I was looking forward to using my training to coach kids to help them become the highest version of themselves,” she explained.

When COVID-19 reached New York City, Crystal became unemployed. She couldn’t find the words to express the horror she felt venturing outside the safety of her home and into the eeriness of her neighborhood, where nearly everything was shut down.

“What scared me the most was the fear of not being able to see my family and the uncertainty of how it would end,” she said. 

Crystal and her son quarantined together and avoided going outside unless it was necessary. After serving five years in prison, Crystal said she was accustomed to living in confined spaces.

Positive thinking was key to helping her survive the crisis. Crystal said she’s a spiritual person who is in tune “with the vibrations” around her.

“Once you put it in your mind, the body reacts,” she explained.

For that reason, Crystal said she doesn’t keep up with the news. Daily– sometimes hourly– news outlets reported the latest theories and statistics about the virus, which baffled many scientists.

“There’s a lot of toxic things out there. I had to stay strong within myself so that my son would also be strong. I kept my son mentally strong by telling him that he will be OK,” said Crystal, a strong proponent of natural healing and holistic medicine.

By the sixth month into the pandemic, Crystal was optimistic that the worst was over.

She focused her attention on the future. Crystal believed that the new normal will include people beginning to look out for each other’s well-being more.

“It’s cool to me to see so many people come together and help each other out, which I haven’t seen in a long time,” she said, adding, “A new earth is coming, and I’m really looking forward to it.”


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