Where Are They Now: Rosa

When Rosa (‘14) was in middle school, she joined Reality Changers. What she thought would be an opportunity for her and her brother to be the first in their family to attend college morphed into her contributing to the developing infrastructure and transportation of San Diego. 

Her story begins in middle school when she initially joined Reality Changers alongside her older brother. Through Reality Changers, she and her brother were encouraged to participate in volunteer work as a means to contribute to her community and prepare for future college applications. It was then that she attended the launch of the Mid-City CAN Youth Council and was asked: what do you want to see in your community? Alongside the other youth council members including fellow Reality Changers students, she began to envision a City Heights with the same amenities as more affluent neighborhood. They proposed a youth center with a skate park. 

During her time with the youth council, Rosa worked to gain funding for this project. The youth council applied and was awarded a youth grant from the California Endowment allowing her to travel to and learn from youth centers in Oakland. The work continued for her in high school, she recalls spending, “most of my day at Mid-City CAN or Reality Changers.” While at the youth council she would advocate for a skate park in City Heights and begin advocating for the Youth Opportunity Passes Campaign — a program that would allow youth 18 and under to ride transit at no-cost. Meanwhile, at Reality Changers, she made sure she kept her grades up and began preparing for college admissions. By the end of Rosa’s high school years, the youth council was awarded the land and funding needed to begin constructing the skatepark and began a pilot program for the Youth Opportunity Passes Campaign. 

Her passion for the youth council and community advocacy inspired her to pursue an education in politics and legal studies at the University of San Francisco. “I learned as much as I could in college and took advantage of a lot of opportunities,” Rosa shares. While in college, she interned in Washington D.C. and Bolivia, and ultimately decided that San Diego was where she needed to return to, with a plan to support working class families. Upon her graduation, Rosa found herself working as a Transportation Justice Organizer continuing to advocate for the Youth Opportunity Passes Campaign. 

Eventually, Rosa transitioned to working within the government, Chairwoman Nora Vargas District 1 office for the County of San Diego, as the Sr. Infrastructure and Community Development Policy Advisor. Through her time at the county she pushed for the launch of the Youth Opportunity Passes Program. She was committed to its passage and what it meant for her community and those that would benefit from it, working class families like the one she grew up in. Even with a large setback like the COVID-19 pandemic, Rosa continued the work and the San Diego Association of Governments eventually allocated the funds needed for the program, allowing the Youth Opportunity Passes Program to officially launch in 2021.

Thanks to Rosa’s hard work and the hard work of others in her community, Reality Changers high school participants are now able to take public transit to attend our afterschool programs. This includes a large cohort of students from The Preuss School UCSD who commute downtown from La Jolla.

Rosa continues to advocate for City Heights as the VP of Community Development at City Heights Community Development. “We want to make sure that we are planning for the future but not leaving our communities behind,” Rosa says about her work, “We have so much history, and we want to make sure that we are front and center.”



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