By Sherehe Hollins
Special to La Prensa
In a time where urban communities throughout the nation are plagued by the devastation of violence, homicides, increasing incarceration, and school drop out rates, Reality Changers, a City Heights-based program, has been helping youth transcend the challenges of inner-city life by showing them how to create a future full of opportunity and limitless possibility.
Guided by its mission to raise the number of first generation college students, Reality Changers has become California’s leading tutoring program for scholarships. On average each student who graduates from the program earns nearly $100,000 in scholarships, an invaluable support for students who come from low-income families.
Founded by Christopher Yanov in 2001, the program has successfully graduated 271 students who have gone on to attend some of the nation’s most prestigious colleges and universities. Students in Reality Changers have earned over 25 million dollars in scholarships from all sources to assist them in their pursuit of higher education.
This year, five students in the Reality Changers program were awarded the distinguished Gates Millennium Scholarship, an award which provides full tuition for students to earn their bachelor’s, master’s and Ph.D. degrees. On average, there are only 20 scholarship recipients per state.
The effectiveness of the program rests upon one of its founding principles: positive outcomes occur for youth when they are presented with positive pathways that allow them to overcome the negative influences in their lives. The close-knit, family-like environment that students experience within the program nurtures their goals and lays a solid foundation for academic and personal success.
Every week, 250 8th to 12th graders from schools across San Diego County come together to take part in tutoring, mentoring, college and SAT preparation classes, as well as a host of community service and leadership activities. Guided by a dynamic staff, many of whom are Reality Changers alumni, the students discover that failure is not an option because the expectation is excellence.
Reality Changers raises the bar for what is expected from youth who come from urban communities and dispels the myths and stereotypes surrounding what inner-city youth can achieve. To be admitted and remain in the program, students must maintain a 3.0 or higher Grade Point Average. Some students have taken the initiative to raise their GPA from below a 1.0 to a 3.0 in one month’s time, just to gain admission into the program.
The program helps students recognize the wealth of knowledge, potential and resources at their disposal and equips them with the information, tools, resources and networks of support needed to help them realize their goals. Reality Changers helps students rise above the challenging circumstances of their environment by affirming just how brilliant, talented and capable they are. Year after year, Reality Changers’ graduates prove that greatness is what they are made of and success is what they are destined for.
An additional 100 students are expected to be added to the program in August and September. For more information about the program and to learn more about how you can support please contact Reality Changers Headquarters at 619-516-2222 or visit www.RealityChangers.org.