Carlos’s Story

Meet Reality Changers alumnus, Carlos.

For as long as Carlos can remember, he’s had one goal.

In kindergarten, on Carlos’s first-ever field trip from Daniel Boone Elementary, Carlos had a chance to visit a fire station. On that day, he realized that he was going to become a firefighter. Since then, everything he has done has been in pursuit of that dream.

I want to help create change. Everyone needs help, especially the ones who are calling 911 to get it. I want to be the resource that can help others, regardless of the situation.”

Becoming a city firefighter is ultra competitive. Thousands of people from all over the world apply for spots in the fire academy. In order to qualify as an applicant, Carlos knew early on that he needed to graduate from college.

In the fall of 2014, a counselor at University City High School told Carlos about Reality Changers. He was so eager to join the program that he turned in an application that day.

“I mostly went to Reality Changers for the college application help. I really wanted to do the best that I could. There were a bunch of people that helped me out. Reality Changers helped me with applications, programs, and applying for FAFSA. As a person who likes to ask a lot of questions, I was comfortable with how encouraging and supportive everyone was.”

After high school, Carlos attended Southwestern College. As a full-time student and worker, he still found time to be involved in extracurriculars such as the Fire Science Club and Phi Theta Kappa Honors Society.

During his time at Southwestern, Carlos achieved his Associate’s Degree in Fire Science (2017) and earned career-relevant certifications, including Emergency Medical Technician and CALFIRE Basic. He also met a mentor, a professor and retired San Diego Fire Department Battalion Chief, who recommended that Carlos pursue a Bachelors’s Degree in Public Administration.

In the fall of 2018, Carlos transferred to San Diego State University. While at SDSU, Carlos continued to work full-time, joined Alpha Phi Omega, a service fraternity, and did an internship with National City Fire. He graduated in 2020.

It was during his time at SDSU that Carlos joined the Reality Changers mentorship program. As a mentee, he meets regularly with his mentor and Reality Changers board member, Steve Ortiz.

“Working with Steve, in one word, is “legendary” The man is a living legend. He is a great energy to be around. He has great advice. I like to weigh my options and see everything. For example, I was struggling between applying to an EMT position that is bridged with 911 calls, or a Human Resource Position with a private ambulance company. Steve helped me think through the options. He told me ‘interview for both and see how you feel after,’ ‘ask questions.’”

Carlos is grateful for the support that he has received through his mentor and the Reality Changers Alumni Network.

“Every time I think about people giving me advice or helping me out. I always try and figure out how I can pass that on to the next person. That’s something I live by. I want to know everything and I want to know how to pass what I have learned.”

Currently, Carlos is continuing to build his resume in pursuit of his ultimate goal to become a firefighter. He is working full-time as an EMT, dispatcher, and Human Resources & Training Manager for a local ambulance company. In addition, he has been doing some part-time work supporting County-run COVID-19 vaccination sites.

Carlos is grateful for the mentors and groups, like Reality Changers, that have helped him along his journey. 

“Reality Changers is a lending hand. Many people who are involved have been in the position of first-generation students and they want to help the next person. Everyone is influencing everyone else for the better. I mean who would any of us be if we didn’t have help from others in our past?”

For Carlos, getting his dream job as a firefighter would not just be an important career move, but also an opportunity to give back to the community that gave to him

“Firefighters want to be involved in their community. That’s part of why I want to be a firefighter. They’re not afraid to ask “where can I help?” I want to find people who need that help. Giving back is a domino effect.”

Reality Changers will continue to support Carlos on his journey to become a firefighter. Through mentorship, networking, and more, the organization will be there with him every step of the way, as he works to achieve his dream.

“Everything is possible. If you really want it, you will find a way to make it possible. Just stay dedicated, stay patient, it will come.”

You can support Alumni Network programs that help young people like Carlos to advance their careers. Click here to make a donation.

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