Michelle and Reality Changers

Get to know Michelle.

Have you ever thought about how your life might have gone differently? Is there one pivotal moment in your life that changed everything for you? For Reality Changers graduate Michelle, it was the day she learned that she had been accepted into the program.

“Honestly, if it weren’t for that phone call, if it weren’t for getting into Reality Changers, there are so many opportunities that I wouldn’t have had. I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

Michelle’s parents moved from Mexico to City Heights, San Diego in 1990. Starting in the 8th grade, Michelle participated in tutoring, community service, and college application support programming as part of Reality Changers. She believes that these programs helped her to be successful in high school and college applications. For her, though, the real value of Reality Changers was the way the program exposed her to new opportunities.

“My parents really did sacrifice their lives to create better opportunities for us in the US. And they were right. So, as soon as I heard of any opportunity, I wanted to take advantage of it. Reality Changers has opened so many doors for me.”

Throughout her time in Reality Changers, Michelle had many moments where she tried new things that seemed intimidating at first, whether it was public speaking during Speech Nights, attending college courses at UC San Diego, or participating in a college-prep program at Princeton University. These experiences challenged her to get outside of her comfort zone, introduced her to new people, helped her to overcome imposter syndrome, and prepared her for collegiate life.

“It was a huge culture shock, because I was so used to being in the City Heights bubble. These programs opened my eyes. I was like ‘there’s a different world out there and this is what college is gonna be like.’ ”

Today, Michelle is a sophomore at the University of Richmond. Because of her diligence in applying for scholarships and financial aid, skills that she first learned at Reality Changers, Michelle’s college and out-of-pocket expenses are fully paid for.

Just before Michelle was set to begin her Freshman year at the University of Richmond, she experienced a series of medical emergencies that culminated in her being diagnosed with a rare kidney disease called Nephrotic Syndrome. She spent her first year of college in and out of the hospital, but, ultimately, completed the year with a 3.5 GPA. You can read more about that experience here.

“Being here at University of Richmond is probably my biggest accomplishment. It reinforces everything I have worked for since high school. When I got to college, I met all of these people who had all of these opportunities available to them since they were young. And I got here and I am like, ‘well, I came from a very low-income community, but I made it to the same spot.’ Even though we started the race at different starting lines, we all ended up in the same place.”

Every day at Reality Changers, we work with amazing students like Michelle who are working to become first-generation college graduates. Your donations help to open new doors for them. 

According to Michelle, “When you give money to Reality Changers, you know where it’s going. You are investing in programs that make a difference for students like me. You are ensuring that students can take advantage of all of the opportunities that Reality Changers offers.

This year, Reality Changers has adapted fast and worked hard to meet changing student needs. This includes providing individualized tutoring to help keep grades on track, adding in-house mental health support services from a social work specialist, hiring new staff to lead additional learning sessions, setting up technology for hybrid virtual/in-person programs, and acquiring new supplies to keep our study spaces as safe and healthy as possible.

Your gift is needed now more than ever. 

With your help, Reality Changers can continue offering these programs to students and adapting to new challenges. Donate today to help young people make this their life-changing moment.

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