Jordan Harrison is a great role model for low-income students in the Reality Changers program
By Faduma Mohamed
Every day Jordan Harrison heads to work at the City Heights nonprofit Reality Changers, an organization that helps low-income students become the first in their families to attend college.
He has seen firsthand how education and hard work can transform the lives of young people. Now, he’s taking his own advice, pursuing a master’s degree in education.
Harrison is heading to Harvard this fall to earn his Master of Education in Prevention Science and Practice with an emphasis on at-risk youth. He’s already fostered change in the lives of students by motivating and supporting them.
During the summer of Harrison’s junior year at San Diego State University, he earned an internship with 3M doing outside sales and market research in Virginia. Although this experience provided a company car, a weekly salary and hotel accommodations, Harrison says, “the money may be great but life was not fulfilling.” During the fall semester of his senior year, Yanov found Harrison on LinkedIn and invited him to create and teach inspirational lessons two nights a week. Harrison found his calling.
As he approached graduation in 2014, with a degree in business marketing, he was facing a challenge. This charismatic campus leader was fielding over 20 job offers from industry leaders like Amazon, Salesforce, Hewlett- Packard, and 3M. It was coming time to choose between making more money or building relationships that last a lifetime.
Harrison recalled one question that Yanov asked that changed his life. Yanov said, “I may not be able to pay you as much as these large companies, but I challenge you to think if you can make as much impact there?”
With that one question Harrison knew what his decision would be. However, it was still a challenge Harrison says. “When it came time to decide, it took me forever, and I even accepted the 3M offer and was going to take it but at the last minute I went with my heart and stayed with RC. I simply cared more about the conversations with the bottom of my students’ hearts than the bottom line of business.”
After his graduation, Harrison took on the full-time role as chief inspiration officer (CIO) from planning for College Fest to running Speech Nights. By year three Yanov promoted him to director of College Town, the 8-11th grade program of Reality Changers. (In 12th grade, students attend Reality Changers’ College Apps Academy program.) As they spend four years in the College Town program, students learn about time management, study skills, and strategies for a successful academic career.
Harrison builds a year-long curriculum for College Town students, he oversees ACT and SAT prep classes, and leads assemblies at local middle schools where he provides information about Reality Changers. Additionally, College Town students attend academic programs at UC San Diego, meet business and community leaders, and “Job Shadow” industry leaders. College Town creates a massive support system for students who might otherwise not have access to such resources. “Every day is a reward,” says Harrison. “I enjoy seeing students grow and change and believe in themselves. The fact that I get up every day and strive to answer the question daily on how to get students to keep going despite the odds makes my life.”
Harrison leaves Reality Changers’ with big shoes to fill. Because of his work, hundreds of students from underserved communities have become the first in their families to attend college. Now it’s time for him to change his own reality through graduate work that will enable him to create even more long-lasting change for young people. He already had an enormous impact on the lives of Reality Changers’ students.
(Faduma Mohamed is a junior at Sweetwater High School)