Chancellor's Associates Scholarships: Changing reality by giving back

On March 16, UC San Diego Chancellor Pradeep Khosla announced a series of scholarships to be awarded to deserving high-school students largely from San Diego’s South County.

Called the “Chancellor’s Associates Scholarships,” the program is aimed at rewarding students who seek to become the first in their families to attend college. The scholarships provide students with $10,000 per year, renewable annually, as long as students must meet academic standards.

“None of these kids will have a penny in loans,” Chancellor Khosla told a community meeting in National City. “They will graduate from UC San Diego without loans.”


His announcement was made in partnership with a non-profit group called Reality Changers, a grass-roots initiative that encourages young people in disadvantaged neighborhoods to pursue dreams of a college education.

Through Reality Changers, a handful of scholarships will be provided for incoming students for the Fall 2014 quarter at UC San Diego. That number is expected to climb.

The group’s founder and president, Christopher Yanov, 35, has led a successful effort to reach high school and community-college students, providing a program of tutoring and counseling through private and institutional donations.

Founded in 2001, Reality Changers has since helped nearly 500 local students – low-income and at-risk – obtain college scholarship and financial aid packages valued at $40 million.

Some 15 years ago, Yanov was inspired to create Reality Changers after taking a course taught by Mary Walshok, Dean of UC San Diego Extension. He started the non-profit foundation in 2001 with $300.

“He was determined to give back to his neighborhood,” recalled Dean Walshok. “I simply suggested a pathway for him to think about how he could transform his ideas into a working reality. He’s truly created a force for good that benefits deserving young people.”

Yanov’s good deeds were profiled in a 2013 documentary titled “The Graduates/Los Graduados,” which aired nationally on PBS stations, including KPBS in San Diego.

UCSD Extension’s “Academic Connections,” a three-week, pre-college residential summer program offered to select students at several San Diego-area public high schools, is part of Reality Changers outreach. Ed Abeyta, Director of K-16 Programs at UC San Diego Extension, oversees the program.

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