When Reality Changers began, the focus shifted away from talking about the dangers of drugs and gangs and instead became solely focused on how to build first generation college students. Measures were put in place to not give any “face time” to the negative behaviors that dominated the streets of the inner-city. This new approach led to the development of Reality Changers’ “Tightrope Theory,” which suggests that messages such as “Don’t do drugs!” and “Don’t be in gangs” are the equivalent of yelling at a tightrope walker, “Hey, don’t look down!”
Instead, students must be coached to focus on their goals that await them on the other side of the symbolic tightrope. The students then use Reality Changers as their balancing pole while they learn to take the steps necessary to get across to the other side.
This shift in approach – from deficit-based to asset-based – has resulted in turning the $300 of seed money with which Reality Changers started in 2001 into over $100,000,000 in college scholarships for low-income youth in San Diego by May 2016.