It is so rare for a young mother to gain full custody of her minor child after incarceration, especially after spending almost a decade in prison. But that’s just what Stella did. Her tenacity and dedication to turning her life around with the help of Bridge House has transformed her into the amazing woman she is today.
Krystella, affectionately known as “Stella”, was born in Pueblo, Colorado in 1987. Although she was raised by a single mother, she grew up with a large extended family. With a passion for horses, she soon began to travel on the rodeo circuit as a barrel racer as a teenager.
At the age of 14, Stella was prescribed pain medication after a terrible car accident. This is where her journey with addiction began. Stella shares, “When I could no longer get a prescription for the pills, I began to experiment with other drugs.” Stella began smoking marijuana daily and at age 16, she moved on to harder drugs and a life of crime. At the age of 19, she ended up in prison.
Upon her first release at age 24, Stella went back to Pueblo and found herself right back in the same situation. Within a matter of days, she was back to hustling the streets. “I got involved with gangs and then became pregnant with my son, RJ. I was soon on the run from parole and was faced with new charges,” Stella remembers. When her son was just 4 months old, she went back to prison. RJ was sent to live with his father’s side of the family.
During her second incarceration, Stella realized it was time to figure out how to change her life. She entered treatment for her drug addiction and completed 2 years of a therapeutic community program while in prison. She started to build a relationship with her mom and brothers and wanted to find a program after her release to keep her sober and stable. She applied to many programs, but none of them felt right until she found Ready to Work.
At age 29, Stella was released from prison and was accepted immediately into the Ready to Work program. From this point on, she never looked back. “I embraced everything. Work, life, learning new skills and taking my sobriety seriously – all of this helped me to find the little girl I was back when I rode horses,” she says. She began fighting for custody of her son and, with the help of Bridge House, she now has full custody of RJ!
In June of 2021, Stella celebrates 6 years of sobriety and freedom from her past life of crime. “I truly owe my life to the Bridge House. Stella says, “The support and structure they provided was the stepping stone I needed to be who I have always tried to be.” Stella currently works as the Manager of Outdoor Operations at Ready to Work Aurora and is taking classes for her Colorado Peer and Family Specialist certification. She says, “I feel honored to provide the kind of support and guidance to others in this program that was given to me.”