Reality Changers Founder and President Chris Yanov has proposed to make it mandatory for college students in San Diego County to mentor first-generation college-bound students.
Reality Changers is a San Diego-based, non-profit organization that provides academic support, financial assistance and leadership training to inner-city youth from disadvantaged backgrounds, according to the website.
The proposal is part of Voice of San Diego’s 2012 Politifest Idea Tournament, which is meant to encourage community members to offer solutions for San Diego’s biggest problems.
Disparity between San Diego County residents who live north vs. south of the Interstate 8 is one of these problems, Yanov said.
About one-third of San Diego County residents 25 and older have a bachelor’s degree or higher, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. However, data from individual cities within San Diego County reveals disparities between the more affluent communities of North County San Diego and the low-income communities in South Bay.
In Carlsbad, 50 percent of residents 25 and older have academic degrees compared to 13 percent in National City.
Yanov hopes to level out the differences.
“If we were able to match the couple hundred thousand college students that are in San Diego every year with students who just need some positive role models, then there would be a lot of amazingly positive change that would happen in this entire region,” Yanov said.He says his proposal would affect both college students involved in the mentorship process and young students who don’t know anyone who has attended college.
Alicia Parker, 20 years old, was once enrolled at Mesa Community College, but no longer attends. She believes Yanov’s idea is a good one.
“I know if somebody in college were to help me out while I was in high school … Oh my gosh, that would have made such a huge difference. They could have warned me what to expect,” Parker said.
Because Parker’s parents never finished college, she says entering college was like “going in head first.”
San Diego State Assistant Dean for Student Affairs Patricia Lozada- Santone said SDSU already hasmentorship programs aimed specifically at South Bay residents.
Lozada-Santone says one example is SDSU’s Compact for Success program, which has helped thousands of South Bay students attend college. Since 2000, the award-winning program has increased the college-age population at Sweetwater Union High School District.
Lozada-Santone is a first-generation Latina college student who got her bachelor’s degree from SDSU. She grew up in the South Bay during a time when there were fewer college programs and modes of commuter transportation, so she understands the struggle of a true first-generation college student.
Regarding freshmen, Lozada- Santone says, “when they are brilliant individuals—which a majority of them are—there is no issue about their cognitive and academic potential, they just don’t know how the system works.”
VOSD will narrow down the top six ideas for 2012’s Politfest Idea Tournament tomorrow.