Reality Changers program helps make college possible for local students

SAN DIEGO - Growing up, Eduardo Corona was not thinking about college but whether he would be part of a neighborhood gang.

"College wasn't around in the neighborhood," he said.

Reality Changers, however, not only changed his mind but his career.

"I'm studying psychology at San Diego State," he said.

The program, which began with four students and $300 in 2001, has grown to the point where $20 million in scholarships are being handed out to students who otherwise may not have an opportunity, like Luis Oleta-Jimenez.

"I'm the first in my family to go to college and it shows if you're determined, it's possible," he told 10News.

Using peer-to-peer pressure to improve grades, after-school mentoring and tutors as well as help with applications, students in the program are going to some of the top schools in the country.

Oleta-Jimenez is going to Brown University, but founder Chris Yanov faces another reality.

"I have 200 students who want to get off the streets and into our college readiness program, but they're on a waiting list because we don't have the money," said Yanov. "The sad part is gangs don't have a waiting list."  

He said it costs the same to send a kid to an Ivy League college as it would be to incarcerate them in California.

"Which is the better investment?" he asked.

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