While we shudder at even the notion that any of our program participants would become anything but first generation college students, the percentages are not in favor of the students who live in our community and not served by Reality Changers:
Reality Changers is headquartered in City Heights, which was once called “the rotten core of America’s Finest City”1 and still where less than 3% of adults hold college diplomas.2 City Heights is the probation capital of San Diego and students at the local high school are twice as likely to drop out than their peers district wide.3
San Diego could save $267 million per high school class if it reduced the high school dropout rate by half and cause a reduction of 435 homicides and aggravated assaults over each class year of students’ lifetimes.4Plus, 79% of local juvenile arrestees say they joined a gang because their friends were involved and 46% said the gang provided them a network of support.5
California’s urban dropout rate is 40% and 50% for blacks and Hispanics.6 The highest dropout rate occurs in the ninth grade.7 And while there is only one counselor for every 1,000 students in low-income schools8, taxpayers spend $252,000 a year to incarcerate one youth in a state facility.9 Even for those who graduate high school, only 30% complete the requirements for the state’s public universities, and that number drops to 20% for Latinos and 18% for African-Americans.10
Just 8% of low-income youth graduate from college by age 25,11 but that is only the end result of broader issues: (1) More than 1 million youth in America are gang members and most join around ages 12 or 13, with membership peaking at age 14.12 (2) Every day, 13 young people are victims of homicide and more youth die from homicide13 each year than cancer, heart disease, birth defects, and stroke combined.14 (3) 52% of Latinas get pregnant at least once before age 20. (4) Lastly, kids who have four or more adverse childhood experiences are 32 times more likely to have behavioral problems in school than kids with no adverse childhood experiences.15
Facing such long odds, sometimes it seems a miracle that Reality Changers even exists at all. Yet we strive to turn our neighborhood into San Diego’s capital for first generation college students. We have taken great strides towards this goal as 97% of our high school graduates enrolled in college and 86% of those have graduated from college or are still persisting.
We provide our students with a new network of peer support that spans 50 high schools. We’ve also established an unprecedented partnership with the local high school so that we can combine forces and produce better results together. Yet this support begins in 8th grade with Challenge Assemblies for students with a 2.0 GPA or below because they are the ones most likely to join a gang and drop out of school the following year.
The good news? Up to 60% of these 8th graders raise their grades within a month once we show them the potential for a new reality. And over 15 years and 1,500 total program participants, only one of our students has been shot (and survived) and only six students – one out of every 250 – had a baby before the end of high school (and five out of those six still enrolled in college).
Students in our communities may not have it easy, but that shouldn’t mean that becoming a first generation college student must be hard. Reality Changers has created a formula where low-income, inner-city youth will have earned over $120,000,000 in scholarships from all sources by May 2018 because we all believe that college changes everything.
Nothing makes us prouder to know that virtually all of Reality Changers’ students will avoid the disastrous fate associated with so many others facing similar situations. But we still shudder knowing that hundreds of students sit on our waiting list and thousands more would join Reality Changers if they had the chance.
It doesn’t have to be this way, though. We know what it takes to help them succeed. Will you partner with us so that – together – we can change their realities?
For more information, please go to www.RealityChangers.org or call:
Founder & President — Christopher Yanov (619) 516-2215
Director of Advancement — Lauren Tullis (619) 516-2215
1 Morgan, Neil. “City Heights: Starting over to Get a Life, save a City.” Union-Tribune 24 May 1998. Print.
2 Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention’s Socioeconomic Mapping and Resource Topography system
3 Burks, Megan. “San Diego’s Richest Poor Neighborhood, Two Decades Later.” Http://www.voiceofsandiego.org/. 8 Nov. 2014. Web.
4 Wilson, James. “The Hidden Impact of High School Dropouts.” Union-Tribune 3 Nov. 2011: B7. Print.
5 SANDAG SAM Program, 2010
6 Wilson, James. “Crime and High School Graduation Requirements.” Union-Tribune 10 Aug. 2012: B7. Print.
7 Wilson, James. “The Hidden Impact of High School Dropouts.” Union-Tribune 3 Nov. 2011: B7. Print.
8 Haskins, Ron, Harry Holzer and Robert Lerman. “Promoting Economic Mobility by Increasing Postsecondary Education.” Promoting Economic Mobility by Increasing Postsecondary Education. Web. 23 Nov. 2015
9 California Budget. 2008-09 Budget. Online at www.ebudget.ca.gov
10 Leff, Lisa. “College Readiness Not Keeping Up with Graduation in Calif.” Union-Tribune 6 Apr. 2014: A22. Print.
11 Fishman-Lipsey, Rebecca. “The Education Gap In Low Income America Is The Next Civil Rights Issue.” Businessinsider.com. 4 Jan. 2012. Web.
12 Pyrooz, David C., and Gary Sweeten. “Gang Membership Between Ages 5 and 17 Years in the United States.” Journal of Adolescent Health: 414-19. Print.
13 David-Ferdon C, Simon TR. Preventing Youth Violence: Opportunities for Action. Atlanta, GA: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2014.
14 David-Ferdon C, Simon TR. Preventing Youth Violence: Opportunities for Action. Atlanta, GA: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2014.
15 This American Life. Public Radio International. 14 Sept.2012.