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Graduate Profile: kate (’16)

Kate (Reality Changers Class of 2016) is a University City High School graduate who attended Chapman University.

She joined College Apps Academy during her senior year, after hearing about the program from her friends. At the time, she was experiencing challenges at home and was receiving a lot of support from her teachers, her friends, and their families. Unable to live at home, they provided her with somewhere safe and supportive to go.

“When you are a young person in crisis,” she says, “it is easy to get flooded. And not know the path forward.”

Together with her existing support system, Reality Changers helped her to find that path forward. In College Apps Academy, Kate learned how to apply for college, how to craft her personal story in an admissions essay, and how to apply for scholarships.

Kate says, “I didn’t have a lot of structure in my life. Having an environment that was consistent helped me to identify what I wanted for myself and make tangible progress in actualizing my goals.”

Kate’s Academy Coach provided close mentorship and “individualized, authentic” care that centered her as a person and helped her to feel seen.

“I was able to unpack some difficult things, which made it easier to move on. I was guided to think about what I wanted for myself. It was a process that was self-determined, rather than prescriptive.”

In addition to the guidance she received from her Coach, Kate learned from the “mutually-supportive, like-minded peer group” of mostly first-gen students. The program, she says, “self-selected students for empathy and resilience.” This created a safe environment for Kate, where she was encouraged to be herself and to embrace her personal story. “I realized how important it is to stand in who you are,” she says.

Kate’s hard work paid off in the spring of 2016, when she was accepted to Chapman University. She visited the school and knew it would be the perfect fit – a small school where she could continue building her community.

Unfortunately, the financial aid package that the school initially offered wasn’t workable for her.

“Reality Changers helped me open doors and find people at Chapman who cared deeply about listening to me and finding out what I needed to succeed. It felt like an open and caring talk with a trusted guide.”

This was extremely valuable for Kate. “I learned that you can speak on your own behalf. I let them know what I needed, in a way that was respectful and acknowledged my worth.”

The school was flexible and, together with a scholarship opportunity from Reality Changers supporters, Kate had a package that would work for her. She started school in the fall of 2016.

During her first two years of school, however, Kate struggled to acclimate. She says, “I was thinking ‘Maybe this isn’t for me. Maybe I don’t belong here.’ I almost didn’t go back several times.”

When things got rough, she leaned on the community of supporters she had built for herself, including her Reality Changers advocates. According to Kate, “hearing ‘we believe in you’ was really affirming.

This got easier as time went on and, in 2020, Kate proudly graduated. She majored in Integrated Educational Studies, with an emphasis in Community Education. In 2021, she completed her Master’s in Leadership Development, with an emphasis in Higher Education

Today, she is the Community Safety Center Manager for UC San Diego.

“We’ve entered a phase of reimagining what community safety means,” she says. Right now, that includes setting up a community space on campus and bringing scientifically-rigorous safety best practices to the community.

One exciting project that she is working on is helping to bring homemade clean air filters into San Diego neighborhoods. These low-cost, DIY air cleaning systems can reduce indoor exposure to airborn particulates like smoke and particles carrying COVID-19. The Community Safety Center is collaborating with local organizations to build and distribute the filters.

For Kate, this is an opportunity to give back to the local community and to pay forward the support she received as a high schooler and college student.

Together, her support system, Reality Changers, and Chapman, created “a continuum of care that made all the difference! It’s what has allowed me to come back to my home community of San Diego and be a part of supporting students at UCSD today.”

In addition, she has been volunteering with Reality Changers and hopes to get more involved. “Reality Changers,” she explains, “is a catalyst that connects different communities in our area. Everyone comes together in support of one idea: education matters. There is an ethos of service that puts students first.”

Kate is grateful to Reality Changers and her community for making a difference in her life and has a message for all of the donors and volunteers who helped her to get where she is today, “Thank you for demonstrating to me what it looks like to believe in someone and to see potential in someone. College changed the trajectory of my life.”

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