STOCKTON (CBS13) – It’s been 25 years since Stockton native Kristin Smart disappeared from Cal Poly after attending an off-campus party.

She was declared legally dead in 2002. The case has long captivated the country.

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“She had a smile, she had a charisma and an energy like no other,” said Kristin’s brother, Matt Smart.

He still holds her memory close.

“Kristin was bound for a destiny of big things,” he said. “She was bound for good, but unfortunately never given that opportunity.”

A lifetime of opportunity was taken too soon from the 19-year-old. Her family still mourns and heals her death and disappearance, twenty-five years later.

“You’re talking 25 missed anniversaries, 25 missed birthdays, 9,000 days at sea. Finally, land is on the horizon,” Smart said.

The family is now starting to feel some semblance of closure, after the arrest of Paul Flores and his father back in April.

“It’s the phone call you’ve prepared for so long, but hadn’t necessarily prepared for receiving,” Smart said. “Is it a moment of joy? Yes. But it’s also a new phase.”

Flores was arrested for murder, as he was the last person Kristin was seen with before going missing. Flores’ father faces accessory to murder charges.

“We’ve had 25 years of false starts. We’re full of hope, full of optimism for justice,” Smart said, but added that they’ll see how things play out in court.

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A major help in the investigation can be credited to the podcast, Your Own Backyard, and its host, Chris Lambert.

“(Things) went from a grassroots campaign to a global village of supporters,” Smart added.

As the family continues to heal, they do so by helping other young women in San Luis Obispo and San Joaquin counties achieve their dreams in Kristin’s honor.

For the last five years, the Smart family has kept her legacy alive through the Kristin Smart scholarship.

“It’s the coolest feeling through the gift of scholarship to afford the opportunity that Kristin never had,” Smart said.

The scholarship empowers college-bound women, and hope to follow in Kristin’s footsteps.

“To live life as Kristin did in a big, bold beautiful way,” Smart said.

The latest recipients include Karlaine Francisco, Stockton; Kaylee Garcia, Morro Bay; Madelyn Nall, Arroyo Grande, and Anh (Annie) Nguyen, also of Stockton.

“You can’t help but be moved from these individuals,” Smart said.

The Smart family continues to find light in the dark, by keeping Kristin’s legacy alive.

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More information on the scholarship, and how to donate or apply can be found here: https://www.kristinsmart.org/kristin-smart-scholarship