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Meet Martín

“Reality Changers changes lives.” – Martín, Reality Changers Class of 2018, UC San Diego Class of 2022

Martín is a Mexican immigrant who grew up in City Heights, San Diego with his parents and younger sisters. His parents, who did not attend high school themselves, brought Martín to the United States in order to give him a better life. He was initially undocumented, but he gained DACA status, which means that he is protected from deportation.

I knew that I had opportunities once I became a DACA recipient. At the time, not a lot of people that I knew had that. A lot of my friends weren’t able to apply to college.”

Martín joined Reality Changers during his first year of high school. As a participant, he received weekly tutoring from volunteers, many of whom were current college students.

“At the time, I knew more people who had been through juvie than people who had been to college. Everyone at Reality Changers made me feel like I could actually go to college. I wasn’t hearing that within my day-to-day at school.”

Martín also participated in community service outings, job shadowing field trips, and college-level courses.

“Reality Changers gave me access to opportunities that are not often found within my community. ”

During his junior and senior year of high school, Martín worked diligently on his college and scholarship applications, with support from Reality Changers. He graduated from high school in 2018 and attended UC San Diego. He was able to afford college thanks to the scholarships he earned.

Martín worked hard at UCSD; studying, volunteering, and interning, but the real world was never far away.

“During my first year at UCSD, my parents were picked up by ICE. I remember calling my Reality Changers achievement coach and my mentor at UCSD. With their help, my parents had free legal aid and a lot of other amazing resources.”

Martín’s parents were thankfully able to remain in the country and return home with his sisters. The judge who presided over the case congratulated Martín for his academic accomplishments.

Throughout college, Martín remained engaged with Reality Changers.

“The on campus College Ambassador was really helpful. I appreciated just seeing a friendly face that was supportive, that asked me about my classes.”

He also began working in the famous UCSD Knight Lab (known for their pioneering 2020 research on detecting COVID-19 in wastewater). And, in 2022, Martín became the first in his family to graduate from college.

Since graduation, Martín has been working; initially in the lab, and, most recently, at a local nonprofit that provides services to asylum seekers. He plans on applying to law school soon and hopes to specialize in environmental law or patent law, possibly while providing pro-bono immigration services. He has also been volunteering with Reality Changers.

“I want to give back and be able to impact others the way that I was impacted by Reality Changers.”

Reality Changers made a difference not just for Martín, but for his parents as well. And we’ve promised his family that we’ll be ready and waiting when it’s time for his sisters to enroll in the program.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, a bachelor’s degree holder will earn 84% more over the course of their lifetime than someone with a high school diploma. This is life-changing for youth, families, and communities.

“It’s important for society to continue to invest in individuals that have experienced challenges in their lives. We all deserve the same opportunities to achieve our goals. I believe that education is one of the ways that we can create opportunity.”

You can invest in opportunity. Demand for Reality Changers programming remains high: we plan on serving 1500+ individuals this year. This includes expanding our 11th grade programs by 81%, which will bring our services to more deserving youth.

We need your support to continue serving youth like Martín and to meet our goal to serve more students this year. Please give by December 31st to change lives.


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