Reality Changers

For nearly five years now I’ve been volunteering with Reality Changers. We used to meet on Wednesday nights at Solana Beach Presbyterian Church in Solana Beach, California. Now we meet on Monday nights because the church is doing a big remodel.

Reality Changers helps students become the first generation in their family to go to college. You can check out their website at RealityChangers.org. RC is a very, very effective program and their are three other locations in San Diego proper.

Soon there will be senior academies springing up in several locations when the local parents see enough of a need that they are interested in investing themselves in the process.

While the main program in Solana Beach starts at 6 pm, I started teaching public speaking to those who show up at 10 minutes after 5 for a little over two years. I’ll be doing that in less than 2 hours from now.

There is a story which really illustrates the power of what we do. I don’t mean to say that this is the only story. There are many, including one student who lived in his family’s car since the early 2000s and last September started at UC Santa Barbara (I’m pretty sure that’s where he went).

But the story to which I’m referring is about two boys who were both in eight grade together.
They both lived about a block and a half apart in the same tough San Diego neighborhood.
Both had the same dismal grade point average in 8th grade. I think it was 0.6.
They went to the same church and had similar-sized families.
You could go down the list and see how similar their situations where. Very, very similar.

At the beginning of 9th grade, one said no thank you to Reality Changers. He did not want to be a part of it.
He ended up being involved with drugs and eventually ended up in prison doing 50 to life for murder.

The other guy said yes to Reality Changers and that was part of the influence in saying no to drugs and yes to more studying and community involvement.
He went to UC Santa Barbara.

I don’t know about you, but to me, that’s an INCREDIBLE difference in their lives and the fact that they started out with such similar circumstances
really tells me how much of a difference that Reality Changers makes in the lives of young people who can be our future leaders.

Now that I’ve been volunteering for nearly five years, I have had the privilege of seeing groups of students start out as freshmen and seeing them eventually
make it all the way through RC and high school and move into what is a dream phase of life for many of them: college!

Right now as I write this I’m thinking of a guy named Christian who is up at the University of Redlands. I remember Christian as a freshman. Smart and a little goofy and dreaming of playing a sport and getting a scholarship. He learned about reality in RC. His skills at sports were not going to be enough to get a full ride scholarship and he concentrated on his academic studies – more and more as the years went on. He did get some scholarships to Redlands and seems happy with his decision to attend there.

I also remember Claudette, who is now a sophomore at Syracuse on a full ride scholarship. She is a talented piano player and very good student. She decided to focus on her academics and music is now a hobby. She wanted to be an example to the Solana Beach RC students and she is as the first one from this group to go across the country to school. Prior to her the graduates stayed in California, mostly in Southern California.

The same year that Claudette graduated there was another student named Phylicia who is on a full ride scholarship to Columbia! And, we had a Gates Millenium Scholar that year. Her name was Daniela and last time we spoke she wanted to be a lawyer. She attends the University of San Diego and her bachelor’s, master’s, and Phd. will be payed for by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation if she chooses to go that far. I suspect that she will.

Right now my assigned student is a guy named Shawn who attends San Dieguito Academy. He’s now more fluent in Japanese after taking more language in two years than most people take in four. He’ll be a senior next year and he’ll go into our senior academy. I’ll still see him sometimes, but not every week. Will he go to UCLA or Stanford or Arizona State? I don’t think he knows yet and we’ll see how his GPA looks at the end of next year. He’s doing great now.

It’s bittersweet when you lose your student to the senior academy portion of the program, but it’s so well worth it.

Times up. Gotta leave for Reality Changers!

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