23 Years of Changing Realities

Reality Changers was founded in a church in 2001. The organization started with just a handful of 8th and 9th graders and a vision for college success. Piece-by-piece, student-by-student, it grew from there. The organization expanded as it drew in more families, more volunteers, more partners, and more funding.

Today, Reality Changers serves 8th through 12th graders, families, college students, and even early career professionals. We have helped more than 3,300 youth graduate from high school and go on to college.


May 2001

Christopher Yanov founds Reality Changers.

The organization begins with just $300 in seed money at Iglesia Presbiteriana Hispana in Golden Hill.

July 2001

Reality Changers sends its first two students to UC San Diego’s Academic Connections, a three-week on-campus program for high school students that is also in its inaugural year.

June 2005

Reality Changers' first class of students graduates from high school.

September 2008

Reality Changers moves to a new location in City Heights and begins offering programs three nights a week.

students at Reality Changers in 2008

January 2009

Reality Changers is incorporated as an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and has 3.5 full-time employees by the end of the year.

December 2009

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan visits Reality Changers and calls the program "a model for the nation."

November 2010

Reality Changers hosts its first “Challenge Assembly” for 8th graders with GPAs of 2.0 and below. These assemblies become essential to the organization’s model of starting high-potential students on the college track before they even begin high school.


April 2011

Mexico’s 55th President, Vincente Fox, visits Reality Changers for the first time. A cross-border partnership begins.

Vicente Fox visits Reality Changers

November 2013

Reality Changers is featured in a nationwide PBS documentary called “The Graduates”.

At the San Diego premiere of the film, San Diego Unified School District Superintendent (and future Deputy Secretary at the US Department of Education), Cindy Marten, says, “When I talk about solutions that work, the gold standard… is Reality Changers”.

PBS documentary filming for "The Graduates"

October 2014

Reality Changers students meet with Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor with Reality Changers students

February 2015

Reality Changers receives UC San Diego’s Diversity Champion Award.

May 2015

Reality Changers celebrates its 1000th program graduate. The graduating class of 2015 includes seven Gates Millennium Scholars.

3 Reality Changers graduates

September 2015

The White House names Reality Changers a "Bright Spot in Hispanic Education."

June 2016

Barbara Davenport writes "Grit and Hope," a book about Reality Changers' 2008-09 school year.

Barbara Davenport, author of "Grit and Hope"

August 2016

San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce names Reality Changers as San Diego’s Most Outstanding Nonprofit.

October 2017

Reality Changers graduate Michael Gaulden publishes his memoir “My Way Home: Growing Up Homeless in America”.

May 2018

Reality Changers celebrates its 2000th program graduate.

8 first-generation college students

September 2018

The San Diego City Council proclaims “Reality Changers Day in San Diego”.

October 2018

Reality Changers’ Founder, Christopher Yanov, steps down as President. Board Chair, Kimberley Phillips Boehm fills in as Interim President during the search for a new President.

July 2019

Reality Changers sends its 1000th student to UC San Diego’s Academic Connections program.

12 Reality Changers students at UCSD’s Academic Connections

August 2019

The Reality Changers Board of Directors concludes their search for a new CEO, bringing in Tamara Y. Craver, an education equity leader with more than 18 years of experience.

Reality Changers students at UCSD’s Academic Connections

March 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic forces Reality Changers to move all programming online for more than a year.

Screen shot of an online meeting

January 2021

Reality Changers moves to a new location on the Wilson Middle School campus.

May 2021

Reality Changers celebrates its 20th Anniversary AND its 3000th program graduate.

3 students wearing masks and college gear

November 2021

Reality Changers wins the “Outstanding Organization for Diversity and Inclusion Award” from the Association of Fundraising Professionals, San Diego Chapter.

staff and students with diversity award

July 2022

CEO & President Tamara Y. Craver receives the 2022 CEO of the Year Award from the San Diego Business Journal.

APRIL 2023

Ten Reality Changers students are honored on the field before a Padres game.

And Beyond...

Reality Changers has big plans for the future! We believe that every student deserves the opportunity to attend college.

Check out our Strategic Plan to see what's coming next!


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