On May 21, 2023, about 1500 people gathered at SeaWorld San Diego to celebrate high school seniors from Reality Changers, a program for future first-generation college graduates. The 175 students who were honored are from across San Diego County and will be the first in their families to attend college.
This fall, students are planning to attend colleges locally and around the country, including Stanford University, George Washington University, UCLA, San Diego State University, UC San Diego, San Diego City College, and others. With support from Reality Changers, these graduates earned $10,463,829 in scholarships and financial aid for the next four years, drastically reducing or even eliminating their out-of-pocket costs.
The 23rd Annual Scholar Celebration, which was sponsored by SeaWorld San Diego, included speeches from students and program alumni, a video visit from San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria, an Orca show, and performances by the Da Real Punjabiz dance troupe and the UCSD Pep Band. Students walked in front of a cheering crowd of family members, past graduates, and volunteers. Each student wore a shirt representing the college that they will be attending in the fall. SeaWorld has been generously hosting Reality Changers’ Scholar Celebration since 2015.
“There’s something so magical about seeing the seniors wearing their college shirts,” said Reality Changers President and CEO Tamara Craver. “You can feel the pride and the excitement. They know that college is going to change everything for them and their families.”
Reality Changers, which is based in City Heights, helps youth to become first-generation college graduates and agents of change in their community. Programs include free tutoring, college application support, financial aid and scholarship application guidance, and more for 8th – 12th graders. Reality Changers will continue to serve the Class of 2023 through college and beyond.
Craver says, “We’re here for our students every step of the way. We’ll provide coaching, workshops, mentorship, and more to help the Class of 2023 become college graduates and launch their careers. Because of these services, we have seen that our students are seven times more likely to complete college than other first-generation, low-income youth.”