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Learning to Turn a "No" into a "Yes"

Crystal Perry '00, MA'20

Educator and Entrepreneur
Writing and Digital Communication

From designing her own major to starting a non-profit organization, Crystal Perry’s experience at Agnes Scott College embodies what it means to “create your yes.”

After receiving her bachelor's degree at Agnes Scott College, Crystal Perry ‘00, MA ‘20, established herself as an educator and entrepreneur. Nearly 20 years later, she found herself back on campus as a graduate student in the Writing and Digital Communication master’s program.  

Her experiences as an undergraduate and graduate student worked in tandem to produce an innovative path. 

“The idea that women could create educational paths for themselves is something that I knew and learned at Agnes,” Perry says. 


When it was time to apply to college, Perry knew Agnes Scott as the “school up the street.” Her mother first introduced her to the campus in 1996, just a few miles away from their family’s apartment near the end of Candler Road. Upon her high school graduation, Perry received a full scholarship to start her undergraduate journey. 

“I did not choose Agnes,” Perry says. “Agnes chose me . . . it’s definitely part of my success story.” But that success did not come without bumps. The entrepreneur learned to create a “yes” for herself on Agnes Scott’s campus.

“I came to Agnes Scott to be a math teacher, but I did have someone tell me that my people are not good at math,” she remembers. “I felt very defeated.”

Despite that experience, she was not dissuaded by someone telling her “no.” After consulting with a Black female professor who mentored her, she designed a major in Africana Studies to focus on the impact of visuals and children's literature on self-esteem. At the time, the college did not offer a major in Africana Studies, which meant students interested in this field of study had to forge their own path. 

“Even when someone told me no, I was empowered to create a path for myself,” Perry says. “That led me to Teach for America. I ultimately became a math teacher, and it's because I had those tools early on when somebody told me no.”

Two decades later, Perry applied to Agnes Scott College’s Master of Arts in Writing and Digital Communication to sharpen her communication skills. At the time, she was working for a nonprofit, leading their professional development and training. Admission into the program meant she could fill in some knowledge gaps and further excel as a senior director, helping the organization move towards technology-enhanced platforms. 

“When I started the Writing and Digital Communication program, I felt like I had all the keys to teaching,” she says, “but what I did not have were those marketing and digital communication skills to actually push the message of that organization. Taking those classes, I learned how to make digital communication a tool for social justice and change.”

In the Writing and Digital Communication program, Perry’s most memorable experience was meeting award-winning American journalist Bill Rankin in the “Journalism in the Digital Age” course. 

“We got to pitch our ideas, and he gave each of us one-on-one feedback,” Perry remembers. “To get feedback from someone of that caliber was really meaningful and memorable.” 

Agnes Scott College offers multiple graduate programs, all designed to help students transform their passion into the profession of their choice. Each program fosters forward-thinking and innovative solutions to impact local and global communities. Perry’s graduate studies experience, along with the Agnes Scott mission to “think deeply, live honorably and engage the intellectual and social challenges of their times,” propelled her toward becoming a leading change agent.

“It was an opportunity to go back onto campus,” Perry says. I love to be surrounded by women and sharpen my skill-set in an environment that I knew would challenge me. Also, I had the opportunity to develop the ideas that ultimately became the nonprofit that I founded.” 

Perry’s nonprofit is Melanated Pearl, an organization that educates, uplifts and empowers Black women. Founded in November 2018, Melanated Pearl serves black women in metro Atlanta through leadership development, financial literacy education and positive identity development. “When you see our logo, there is something for you here,” says Perry. 

Crystal Perry stands with a Freedom House employee in front of a white sign of the non-profit.

Brainstormed in Perry’s transmedia storytelling class, the Melanated Pearl Corporation is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) serving Clayton County, Ga.

Perry describes the pillars of Melanated Pearl’s mission statement as simple but powerful: To educate, uplift, and empower.

“Education has been the key to opening doors in my personal path,” Perry says. “The idea of empowerment goes back to Agnes Scott. Women have a voice. We have a place. When you see women being their authentic selves, that's something to be celebrated.” 

Perry’s authenticity is growing in reach. Since the launch of Melanated Pearl, she received a grant from United Way of Greater Atlanta, was a featured TEDx Talk speaker, and collected countless donations from individuals and local businesses like Target to further her mission. 

 Perry describes how her experience at Agnes Scott solidified the feeling that she had a voice that mattered. 


““That is something I would say I knew about myself,” she says, “and Agnes Scott helped to lay that foundation and gave me many opportunities to practice.” ”

Crystal Perry
Crystal Perry and a Target employee load her white van for her non-profit Melanated Pearl.

A Target employee assists Perry with loading goods onto the Melanated Pearl van.

Perry graduated from Agnes Scott not only with two degrees but with the tools to continue her transformative community work with Melanated Pearl. From learning WordPress to grant writing, these tools have helped her produce a brand that speaks to the Black woman’s experience. Through a string of pearls, or collective work, Perry plans to use her transmedia storytelling skills to expand Melanated Pearl’s outreach by raising funds for possible scholarships and housing initiatives in 2022.  


Co-written by Erikah Swift, a current graduate student in Writing and Digital Communication, and Phoenicia Battle '03x, MA '20.

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