This past summer provided an enriching experience for Reality Changers graduate Roberto (‘18). With the support of an Alumni Advance Scholarship from the Reality Changers Alumni Network, Roberto was able to return to his home country of Mexico for a 3-month study abroad experience. He took the opportunity to write a research paper on his experiences.
Speaking on the support of the Alumni Network, Roberto shared, “[Reality Changers] not only supported me financially, they always made me feel lifted up and made sure I had resources available to me.”
Roberto is a graduate of the Reality Changers program, having joined during his sophomore year at Helix Charter High School. He first heard about the program in middle school, from friends and members of the community who spoke very highly of it.
As a first-generation student and immigrant to the United States, Roberto faced systemic barriers that impacted his ability to pursue higher education. Prior to joining Reality Changers, Roberto recalled thinking that “higher education or some kind of degree from a university wasn’t a reality for [him], [his] parents, and anyone around [him].”
Through his dedication and participation in Reality Changers, Roberto was able to develop skills and gain the knowledge that would aid his journey to higher education. After joining Reality Changers, Roberto said he saw a, “drastic change in [his] performance and motivation in school.” The workshops Reality Changers hosted taught him how to build a resume, how to budget for the financial cost of college, and how to choose housing plans. Roberto worked with Reality Changers to keep on top of his grades, preparing him for his college journey.
During one summer in high school, Roberto had the opportunity to take courses and live on campus at the University of California, San Diego through the Academic Connections Program. This pre-college experience through Reality Changers gave Roberto the opportunity to experience college life first-hand and gave him his first glimpse into his future major. Roberto says, “I took a sociology course and I realized that this is something I might want to do. And then I did pursue a bachelors in sociology.”
Upon his graduation from high school, Roberto was accepted into the University of California, Santa Cruz. The distance from home and competition in his classes proved difficult for Roberto. During his freshman year at university, he often felt like he didn’t belong. “I was feeling upset, lost, confused,” he explains, “a lot of negative emotions.”
It was in this moment that Reality Changers provided Roberto with the support and encouragement he needed to persevere through. He recalls receiving a ‘care package’ from the Alumni Network. “Just seeing that gift put a huge smile on me, and made me feel good about myself. It was very personal and I felt that connection, that Reality Changers is more than just a program,” says Roberto.
While college acceptance is a key part of Reality Changers programming, ensuring that our students graduate from college is equally as important. In the Spring of 2022, Roberto graduated from the University of California, Santa Cruz with a double major in education and sociology and began work within the educational field. He believes that all first-generation students should truly consider participating in Reality Changers. He encourages first-generation students who are feeling stuck to look to Reality Changers as an open door of opportunity. Roberto himself is now a role model for other students like him. His younger brother Eduardo just graduated from Reality Changers and is beginning his first year at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.