WC alumna uses journalism skills to promote her alma mater
Crystal Woerly was born to tell stories. As public relations director for Weatherford College, she gets to share stories of folks around campus for a living, a dream come true for a communicator such as her.
"I’ve always enjoyed telling people's stories," Woerly said. "I took an intro to journalism class in ninth grade and realized I had a knack for writing – not as a novelist. I stink at writing fiction, but I’m good at taking a large amount of factual information and people’s experiences and combining it into a story that is, hopefully, entertaining and easy to digest.”
Woerly attended WC from 2000-2002 where she completed her Associate of Arts degree. She then attended the University of North Texas full time from 2002-2004, and then part time until she finished her Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism in 2011.
"There is no right timeline to complete your education, right?" she joked.
She returned to school in 2015 at Tarleton State University and completed her Master of Communication Studies degree in 2019.
But Woerly didn't wait until she had a college degree to start her career of choice. She started working at the Weatherford Democrat the spring semester of her senior year at Weatherford High School.
"I wrote a few articles freelance, and then they hired me part-time," she recalled. "I came in after school and listened to the police scanner and wrote a story every couple of days. I graduated high school on a Friday and started working a 40-hour week at the paper the following Monday."
She worked full-time at the newspaper the entire time she attended WC. When she transferred to UNT she went to work at the Sanger Courier, a small town newspaper just north of Denton.
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"I stayed there a year and felt I was going to burn out. Nearly all of my school was journalism and so was my job," she said. "I wanted to enjoy my chosen career once I graduated, so I ended up working at a hotel in Fort Worth my senior year and for a few years after.
"I found I had a knack for accounting and ended up assistant manager, but I decided I didn’t want to continue down that path and miss out on the career I had originally set my sights on, so I called up my former co-worker who was now the editor at the Democrat and told her I wanted to come back. When there was an opening she called me up and I went back to work in Weatherford."
She left the workforce when she had her first child and was a stay-at-home-parent for a little more than a year. But she missed having a job. At that point she was in Copperas Cove near Fort Hood and was hired as the managing editor at the Copperas Cove Leader-Press in 2008.
About a year later, she moved home to Weatherford and back to the Democrat for a third time, this time as the news editor.
As is often the case with folks who write for a living, the memories pile up. Some, however, are more special than others.
"I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing some amazing people. One in particular who stands out was an elderly lady I visited with one afternoon. The reporters at the Democrat were doing a weekly feature called 'At Random' where we took turns finding a random person to write a feature on. The idea was that everyone has a story.
"This was back when we still had phone books. I picked her number at random and gave her a call. I went over one afternoon and we started chatting. She told me she didn’t have a story to tell. But as we spoke she told me how she and her husband had fostered dozens—it might have been close to 100 kids, if memory serves me correctly—and adopted a few kids from the foster system. She talked about how they took in kids from all ethnicities and how challenging that was in the ‘60s but they did it anyway.
“Her story left an impression on me. She thought she didn’t have a story to share, but her actions had clearly impacted so many young lives."
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In 2011, Woerly went to work as the managing editor at Parker County Today where she stayed until January 2014, when she returned to WC, this time as an employee.
As PR director for the college, she writes press releases, schedules advertising and manages the official WC social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and LinkedIn.
"If you had told me 10 years ago that the bulk of my job would be managing social media, I would have told you that you were crazy,” she said. “I remember when I first had to start using Snapchat and I officially felt old. I still don’t think I’ve figured out how to use it to the best of the platform’s ability, but I’m trying. And, at the same time I’m trying to learn TikTok to see if we can implement it too.”
Overall, Woerly loves her job and feels blessed to draw a paycheck for something she simply loves doing. And her favorite part?
"The people I work with. I’ve been in job settings where the work wasn’t bad, but going to the office caused despair every morning. The people in my office and across campus are fantastic to be around. I’ve made great friends at WC," Woerly said.
"I also enjoy getting to know our students. When I write a feature on one of them or end up taking their photo for social media because they are actively involved with campus activities, I’ll get to know them. Sometimes we end up following each other on social media and then I get to see how successful they are after the take their next step after WC."
And Woerly, herself, is one of those WC success stories. As a first-generation college student, she credits WC for her educational and professional success.
"Neither of my parents finished high school,” she said. “They sat me down when I was 16 and told me if I wanted to go to college I had better figure out how to earn some scholarships because they couldn’t afford to pay for it. I fell through the cracks on the FASFA, my dad literally made a few hundred dollars a year too much for us to qualify for anything. Luckily, I was awarded a Project Opportunity Scholarship which paid for all four semesters at WC – tuition, fees, books, everything.
"Being able to stay at home those first two years, attend WC for free and work full-time enabled me to save up enough money to pay for three of my four full-time semesters at UNT."
She’s now married to John Woerly, and they have three children, Lucia, 14; Lillian, 2; and Joseph, due in November.
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by Rick Mauch