While many high school students spend their free time with friends, Destanie Crist found a greater calling – pouring herself into girls her age who were victims of human trafficking, sexual assault, cyberbullying and abuse.
Now a financial management major at Abilene Christian University, Destanie has brought her compassion and leadership skills to ACU’s College of Business Administration, where she serves as president of Enactus, a student-run organization whose mission is to use innovation and business principles to improve the world.
Members of ACU’s Enactus chapter have engaged in a variety of projects, including teaching a financial literacy class, organizing environmental projects and coordinating a business fair for local children.
“It is so refreshing and humbling to watch those who share similar passions and callings work together to come up with ideas to make a greater impact,” she said. “It’s a chance to use our leadership, business skills and love for people to practice what we have learned and developed as COBA students.”
Destanie is a Women for ACU Scholar, a student leader in Lynay and ACU’s Griggs Center for Entrepreneurship and Philanthropy, and is manager of the university’s STAR student-managed investment fund. And when she’s not focusing on her education, she serves as a mentor for 11th-grade girls at her church.
She first became aware of human trafficking through Help for Hope, a club at her high school in Valley Center, California. Members of the club work with girls who were rescued from forced prostitution and placed in safe houses in Southern California. Destanie joined and eventually became president of the club.
She also served as a CARE counselor at her school, where she provided support and help to students who faced a variety of issues ranging from cyberbullying to emotional health concerns.
“Help for Hope and CARE allowed me to work with others and show them the love, grace, safety and peace of Jesus through being a safe place to share their struggles or help them report misconduct,” she said.
The plight of one young trafficking victim made an especially lasting impression on Destanie.
“I met her through one of the safe homes,” Destanie recalled. “She was very quiet and timid. I was drawn to that. I think it was because she had so much life in her eyes and her smile lit up the room whenever she laughed. She shared her story of how she was taken into human trafficking, some of the really horrible experiences she went through, but she also shared how that whole experience shaped her and how God guided her throughout that journey.
“It was so powerful to hear her story and the pain she had experienced,” Destanie said, “yet her heart for protecting others from what she experienced was so strong now that she had been through it. The entire time I had goosebumps because the power of God being with her was so transformative.”
Destanie has continued her quest to fight human trafficking since she has come to ACU. She takes every opportunity to present research and information about the issue.
“Spreading awareness is a huge factor” in fighting trafficking, she said.
At ACU, she has found the perfect community in which to hone her passion for helping others.
“I really wanted to come to a college and be a part of a business program that emphasized the mission of honoring God in the workplace through being more like Christ,” she said. “As a finance major I have had many exceptional professors who have impacted my life in how they live, how they treat their students and how they challenge me.”