Alumni Spotlight: Rebecca Ruelas
Start by telling us a little bit about your experience with Reality Changers.
I applied to be in the program and became a participant in 2011 when I was going to be a junior in high school. I was starting to think about college a lot more and I didn’t have any direction. My mother never went to college, so I had no resources available to me to go to college or even think that was possible. A friend told me about Reality Changers, so I applied and I got in. Ever since then, I’ve gotten the resources and mentoring that I needed to get to UCSD and to graduate college.
Why did you apply?
I didn’t want to go to college, but my mom actually made me apply to Reality Changers. She really cared about me, and I want to make her proud. But I also wanted to make myself proud. Now, look where I am today! Thank you, Mom. Shoutout to my mom.
What was your favorite moment at Reality Changers and why?
I had an experience with my tutor and mentor James Echols. He’s awesome! I was a little down because I wasn’t doing well in my British literature class in my senior year of high school. My grade would determine whether or not I could still go to UC San Diego. The senior year still counts even after you’ve been accepted, so I was getting stressed about not making the cut. So, I was stressed out. I was worried and so I just talked to him about that and how I felt.
I remember him telling me, you can prove to them that you can do it. You need to prove to them that you can take this class and accomplish everything you set your mind to. Show that teacher that, they may not believe in you, but you believe in yourself. That’s all that matters. He really encouraged me and I did well in the class. I received an A in the class because I had the right mindset. The class was discouraging because it was hard and the teacher wasn’t motivating. So, I just had a special moment with my tutor and mentor James and that’s my favorite moment. It’s that one-on-one connection that really helped me grow as a person.
How did Reality Changers aid to your future goals and dreams?
It connected me to the right people. It all comes down to whether or not you can achieve your goals with the right vision, mindset, and people. That includes resources as well. Getting job opportunities really helped me explore my vision, explore what my dream is and kind of make my vision. If I hadn’t gone through Reality Changers, I wouldn’t be open to the opportunities that have come my way. It’s such a beautiful thing that they’ve offered me so much.
What would be the biggest takeaway you’ve received from Reality Changers, whether it was kind of mentorship or guidance with college applications, or something else?
After Reality Changers, I’ll never stop mentoring. They’ve given back so much to me and I want to give back to them and to the world in general. I’m just so grateful. That’s one of the things that I take away from Reality Changers: that giving can mean your time. It doesn’t necessarily mean money. Since I’m a student right now, I have student loans, so I can’t really give money. But I can give my time. So servanthood is one of the things they’ve taught me. Being a servant of your community is what the world needs. I realized Reality Changers helped me with my dream and vision of going to college, which is why I’ve turned around and mentored other students from the program.
What are your future goals and what action steps are you taking to achieve?
I’m getting my masters in Organizational Leadership and Change. My future goals include working at an educational institution and becoming a leader. Engaging communities and helping create optimal communities for the city of San Diego is my goal. I’m still deciding which area I want to go into, be it not-for-profit organizations or an educational institution. I’m just grateful to explore my options.
Who is your biggest supporter and have they helped motivate you?
My mom. She’s the one that forced me to apply to Reality Changers. She’s been such a strong woman, a strong single parent, Mexican immigrant and I see how she lives unconditionally for me. She’s very selfless and I’m very grateful for her. Her prayers have helped me maintain myself, not in a bubble, but more of a circle of protection.
She’s definitely been an inspiration to me about making something out of myself. I know she doesn’t care what my career is. She does want me to be educated – that’s the most important thing. As long as you’re educated, you can survive in this world. Of course, she would probably want to see me as a doctor but I’m like “Mom, math or science? No way!” But she’s really proud of me, whatever I choose in life. That really takes the pressure off. I still want to make her proud, and there’s some pressure being a first-generation college student. You think about your mom and how much she’s gone through to do so much for you. I feel bad if I’m wasting my time.
She’s still very comforting and reminds me to take my time. I think I felt it more when I was first starting out: a lot of new stuff like going into college, living being away from home and so on.
What advice would you give to students currently pursuing their dreams?
Be open to new ideas because we’re constantly changing. Something you might like today but you might not like tomorrow. You never know what’s going to happen. Also, be grateful to live in the present because you never know if tomorrow might be your last day. It sounds a little grim, but I’m just being realistic. Always think about the present, but also consider how much you’ve progressed and use that to inspire you to seek your dreams.
Write it down, talk to someone about it. Speak to someone who has experience in that field. You can learn within a community. It’s all about learning. There is no education without community. If you don’t have a community like Reality Changers that share your vision or dreams, you’re going to stay stagnant. You’re going to grow when you have other people to confide in. They can help you grow and maybe help you achieve, give you some tips, some resources.
Is there anything you want to add about your Reality Changers experience?
I just love the community. Reality Changers brings a community to San Diego and really empowers students. It forces inner-city kids like myself to think bigger and to really just worry about ourselves instead of worrying about our families for once. A lot of us here at Reality Changers are big on family and it’s nice to think about your educational goals and your career goals in addition to thinking about family. I’m just so grateful for this community. We can relate with one another and help each other. We all have different stories, but we have similar backgrounds and beliefs, family and culture. It’s nice to have someone you can relate to at the end of the day.