Several young women are carrying out Kristin Smart's legacy daily, by pursuing careers in fields that interested her.
The Kristin Smart Scholarship, funded by the non-profit organization “Justice for Kristin," was created to honor the missing Cal Poly student's life, dreams, and aspirations by funding other women’s endeavors.
Kristin Smart disappeared from the San Luis Obispo campus on May 25, 1996. While the suspect in her murder was recently arrested, her body has not yet been found.
Each year, the Kristin Smart Scholarship Committee awards $2,500 or more to college-bound women from San Luis Obispo and San Joaquin counties who plan to pursue a degree in law enforcement, international relationships, and architecture.
Five young ladies were selected in 2020 and many said they are using the opportunity to pursue their dreams just like Kristin was before she went missing.
“I wrote in my essay, ‘If you give me the chance, I will promise you that I will show you I am worthy and capable of achieving my goals.'”
Those are words Cal Poly freshman Natalie Mangskau lives by as she works towards a career in law enforcement.
“I reflect on what I am doing in the future. How is that really going to impact situations in my career? If I do have the opportunity to create change and do my part, that’s the most important thing,” Mangskau said.
She grew up as a triplet in Tracy, which is not far from where Kristin Smart lived in Stockton.
Mangskau said she learned of Kristin’s story while working as the news editor for her high school paper.
“Definitely a surreal experience," she said. "I remember stepping on the campus and thinking, this is where she went and this is where she studied.”
Motivated to create a safer community, Mangskau applied for the Kristin Smart Scholarship.
It has helped her pay for books, necessities, and much more.
“I think it’s so much more than the money,” Mangskau said. “It’s funding people’s dreams and career goals basically showing that I believe you have what it takes to pursue the career you wanted, which was really important to me.”
Morro Bay High School graduate Danna Martinez was awarded the scholarship in 2020.
“I remember reading the email saying, ‘Congratulations! You are one of the recipients,' and I was so happy, I think I screamed,” Martinez said.
She’s double-majoring in Chicano/Latin American studies and criminology with a concentration in victimology at Fresno State University.
“My dream job is to become a crime analyst which is basically working undercover, looking at where the crimes happen and how they happen and hypothesizing where it will happen next,” Martinez said.
As a first-generation college student, Martinez hopes to inspire others to pursue dreams of their own.
“I really want to help my community, the Mexican-American community, because I feel like in most cases it’s really underrepresented in some areas, so having somebody to look up to - I want to inspire younger generations to keep pursuing their college education,” she said. “‘Si se puede’, yes we can, like we say in Spanish. “
Both girls are inspired by recent developments in the Kristin Smart case.
“I think it’s amazing the amount of precision and patience it takes,” Mangskau said. “It definitely shows that you can create change in the law enforcement community.”
After watching investigators and crime analysts work in the field, Martinez is determined to bring justice to future families of victims in honor of Kristin.
“I tell myself, once I graduate, not only will I be graduating with a Bachelor's, but also with Kristin. She’s always going to be by my side and I will always remember her and her family, too,” Martinez said.
Lily Stewart, an Arroyo Grande High School graduate, plans to major in criminology with the U.S. Coast Guard and hopes to one day join the FBI to work in criminal profiling.
CLICK HERE for information on how to apply or donate to the Kristin Smart Scholarship.