24-year-old ‘wanted to give back’

24-year-old ‘wanted to give back’

RANCHO SANTA FE — Cristina El Shahawi, the 24-year-old Rancho Santa Fe resident who was killed in a single-car accident on Feb. 6, had planned to devote her life to teaching inner city children. “She wanted to give back to those who did not have,” said her stepfather Ihab Shahawi.

He said she had been applying for inner city teaching programs that allow a person to get a master’s degree in education while teaching in inner city schools.

“She wanted to teach junior high school or high school,” he said.

She had done interviews in New York, Chicago and had recently returned from an interview in Washington, D.C.

The accident that took her life is was a “tragic accident,” said CHP Officer Jim Bettencourt of the 2:50 p.m. crash.

Bettencourt said she was traveling west in the 5400 block of La Granada west of Sobe Los Cerros in a 2007 Mini Cooper, when she entered a left hand curve in the roadway. For reasons unknown, she entered the eastbound lane of traffic then overcorrected to the right, spun off the north side of the road and struck a tree.

He said she suffered major head trauma and was airlifted to Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla, where she was pronounced dead at 3:52 p.m.

She was wearing her seat belt and neither drugs nor alcohol appear to be a factor in the crash.

“It appears to be just a tragic accident,” he said.

Cristina El Shahawi was born in Colombia. She moved with her family to the United States in Woodland Hills where she did her most of her schooling until she was bitten by the travel bug while visiting a friend in New Zealand. She began looking around and decided to finish high school at the Leysin American School in Switzerland. She learned to love snowboarding, which she learned in the Alps.

“She was a free spirit,” said her stepfather. “She got to learn French and travel all over Europe while she was there. She went to Thailand on a humanitarian trip.”

The family moved to Rancho Santa Fe four years ago.

When she returned home, she attended Palomar College for a while and then applied at Hofstra University from which she graduated last May with degrees in mathematics and graphic arts.

“She loved to travel. She had been to 40 countries and six continents, sometimes by herself, sometimes with family and sometimes with friends,” Ihab Shahawi said.

During a recent trip, she got to see the Northern Lights at the Arctic Circle.

“She had a passion for chocolate and on trips she would look for different chocolates in every country,” said her sister, Alexandra Copete.

Copete said her sister was an avid reader and that she liked music and movies and watching sports in person having gone with her family to the Olympics in London.

Cristina El Shahawi also enjoyed painting and drawing and may have been on her way to an art class when the accident happened.

“She would do anything for anyone in the family,” Copete said. That included birthdays, anniversaries and graduations, for which she would drop everything and attend no matter where.

But, said Ihab Shahawi, she would do the same anytime she could for the little things too.

It went both ways.

“We were all there in New York in May when she graduated,” he said.

Cristina El Shahawi is also survived by her mother Vivian; sisters Alexandra Copete and Sabrina Shahawi; brothers David and Anwar Shahawi; her grandparents on both sides of the family and numerous aunts, uncles and cousins.

Services were under the direction of El Camino Encinitas Chapel.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to Kids First Foundation, which helps children in inner schools to get to the next level. Donations may be made to 993 C South Santa Fe Ave #50, Vista CA 92083.

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