Student Spotlight: Gates Scholarship Semifinalists

Reality Changers believes in supporting students throughout their entire college-going journey. We help our students believe that they can be successful in college and guide them through the entire college application process. However, not only do we want to make sure that students attend the right college for them, we also want to ensure they are set up for success financially. We work with students to apply to a significant number of scholarships to eliminate the financial barriers to college. One of the most prestigious scholarships our students apply for is the Gates Scholarship.  

The Gates Scholarship is a scholarship program funded by The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The Gates Scholarship is an all-expenses-paid scholarship that can enable high-potential, low-income minority students to excel in their course work, graduate college, and continue to be leaders throughout their lives. In addition to funding, The Gates Scholarship engages Scholars and their institutions in a variety of ways, to ensure they have access to the resources and services they need, from their first to last day of classes, through graduation and the transition to their chosen careers.

Since Reality Changers started in 2001, we have had 29 Gates Scholars. This year, we are excited to share that two of our seniors have made it to semifinalist phase! Luis and Diego are seniors at Mission Vista High School. We are so proud of Luis and Diego and are thrilled to share their stories with you.

What is your dream college and major? What are your future goals and what action steps are you taking to achieve these goals?

Luis: My dream is to attend MIT and study Physics. My future goal is to be a research physicist, studying the universe around us. College is one of the first steps in this process. I am planning to pursue a degree in Physics to prepare for graduate studies.

Diego: I’d like to attend Stanford University and study Electrical Engineering. Aside from getting at least a bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering, I find my future to be full of possibilities. I’ve entertained the idea of becoming a professor of some sort from my efforts tutoring homeless youth, but I also have a side interest in benefitting that same population through a career in social work.

Who is your biggest supporter and how have they helped motivate you?

Luis: My family is my biggest supporter in this process. They have provided motivation that allows me to persevere and pursue my passions.

Diego: By far, my Reality Changers college advisor, Ms. Kristen Sessions, has been the impetus behind my efforts in the college admissions process. Day or night, she has answered a myriad of questions or helped me with my essays. Without her, I don’t think I would be able to have ventured far past my previous goals.

Please share a little bit about your experience with Reality Changers.

Luis: It is definitely great to be part of Reality Changers’ College Apps Academy. They have provided great support and help throughout the college application process. Not only did I learn a lot about college, I learned a lot about myself as well. This journey is the first step of achieving my future goals to become a scientist. The program has made the first steps of my journey possible.

Diego: Since the program has started in April of last year, I have felt much support from both my peers and advisor in the program. Through weekly meetings and emails, I have been well informed of the college application process, and I have even been able to help guide my peers outside of the program in their initiatives. This process has been known to be a paramount, albeit stressful time, but after College Apps Academy, my grievances have been soothed and my endeavors have been supported.

Why did you apply to be a part of the program?

Luis: I applied to be part of the program because I was worried about the college application process. It seemed overwhelming and confusing. At first, I did not really know where to start, but the program’s support lifted those worries.

Diego: After seeing my sister complete the program with many fruits of success, I had hoped to utilize the same resources, and as many more as I possibly  could. I wasn’t always a college bound student: I hadn’t even considered college to be a necessity until halfway through high school, but at that point, I knew I had to push myself into full gear and change my life goals. I saw Reality Changers to be a life net in my endeavors in academia, providing me with support on essays, reminding me of deadlines, and making the whole process of applying to college glide by.

What has been your favorite moment at Reality Changers and why?

Luis: My favorite moment at Reality Changers is meeting all the people who share a common goal with me. It definitely inspires and motivates me to always try my hardest. All of us together that are part of this program in our school, support and make each other stronger and better.

Diego: After applying to more than two dozen schools, I received my first major acceptance from an in-state selective school. Not only that, but I was nominated as a finalist for a full tuition scholarship. Then and there, I could grasp the magnitude of Reality Changers’ significance and see the potential I really have.

What is the biggest takeaway you’ve received from Reality Changers so far?

Luis: The biggest takeaway I’ve received from Reality Changers is the college application guidance. With this help, I became successful during my college application journey.

Diego: Don’t rush. Whether its 2 hours before a college application deadline or you want to get all your applications done 2 months before, haste is a catalyst for fallacies in the process. From spelling mistakes, to awkward wording, or even a slight tone of insincerity, my Reality Changers advisor has worked with me across months to cultivate my best chance in college admissions.

What advice would you give to your peers who are pursuing their dreams?

Luis: Despite the difficulties, never give up. You must always believe in yourself. You are your greatest supporter. You can do this because you are capable.

Diego: Don’t rush! As King Claudius said to his Laertes, in William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, “Take thy fair hour, Laertes; time be thine, And thy best graces spend it at thy will!”


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