Our Program


A unique, process-driven approach to delivering outstanding results for our students.


College Is Real helps students at Richmond High School and De Anza High School in Richmond, California become the first in their families to attend and graduate from college. CIR has grown from its initial 16 members in 2005 to 250 or more members each year plus more than 150 college attendees.

“From being a CIR student to becoming a part of the CIR team, I was able to observe how the program works at both ends of the spectrum. As a student, I wasn’t able to fully appreciate all aspects of the program, ranging from after-school tutoring, academic advising, being paired with a mentor, helping with college applications and FAFSA, being held accountable for my academic success, and most importantly, having a support system when I thought I was alone. The difference between CIR and other college preparatory programs is the way it works. CIR is always seeking ways to improve and implement new ideas that will benefit past, current, and future students.”

– Destiney Norsouvanh, UC Santa Barbara


Academic counseling

CIR’s director helps students design their high school academic program in order to meet four-year university admissions requirements (“A-G” requirements in most cases). CIR is the only full-time, on-campus non-profit academic organization at Richmond High and De Anza High;

College application assistance

CIR’s director, mentors and other volunteers assist and oversee CIR’s juniors and seniors with the college application process. CIR often pays application fees for students who apply to more colleges than government fee waivers cover;

College tours

CIR organizes multiple California college campus visits each year in order to expose its students to the college environment and to motivate them to think about opportunities beyond their communities;


Community service

CIR organizes and sponsors various community service activities for its members in order to spread its college aspiration message to the community and to give its members and opportunity to “give back” to the community while helping to strengthen their college applications;


CIR awards college scholarships to its graduating seniors at its annual recognition dinner which is attended by CIR members, their families and mentors; CIR also awards scholarships to sophomores and juniors attending summer college prep programs. CIR provides merit scholarships to its alumni attending college; 


CIR provides each student with a volunteer mentor to act as a counselor and friend in order to help the students believe in themselves and be accountable to a knowledgeable college graduate. The mentors in most cases act as “surrogate parents” for the academic process since most of the students’ parents are not familiar with the college process. The mentors are business people, former Richmond High and De Anza High students who have attended college and community leaders;



CIR provides after-school tutoring and study hall with college students acting as tutors;

College test preparation

CIR provides a multi-week SAT and ACT screening and preparation course;

Middle school outreach

CIR runs a weekly after-school, and summer school multi-week math and literacy program for a "feeder" middle school.

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Program Participants

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The CIR financial model is to operate as a lean and efficient organization so that more than 90% of the funds we raise go to programs directly benefitting our students. CIR has implemented a unique strategy of forming alliances with synergistic third-party educational organizations that provide supplementary support to CIR's students while in high school and then as they start their college years. Examples of this include STEM awareness programs, a SAT prep program geared for low-income minority students, a coaching program to assist with college essays and applications, and a program geared to support our students in what is a difficult transition for many of them during their freshman year at college. We continually review other alliances to expand CIR's offerings and help our students and alumni become even more successful in gaining admission to, and graduation from, college as well as competing in the workplace upon graduation. 

Scholarship Awards

A substantial portion of CIR's annual fundraising goes toward scholarships. CIR provides scholarship grants to all its graduating seniors who will be attending college and, on a selective basis, to alumni in college. CIR also provides scholarships to its high school students attending college summer enrichment programs. CIR's goal is to expand its scholarship awards to as many of its alumni attending college as possible and to increase the amount it gives to graduating high school seniors to help "fill the gap" between financial aid awards and the expected family contribution, which many families are unable to provide. Without CIR's scholarship grants many of our alumni would not be able to attend or graduate from a four-year college.