The local organization called Reality Changers has become a superstar in San Diego charity circles after helping 485 students — poor, on the path to lifetimes of crime and prison or both — garner $40 million in scholarships.

The U.S. secretary of education has called it a “model for the nation,” local school officials are big fans, and its young founder has become a superstar. But, as we report in a new profile, the story of Reality Changers isn’t just one of generosity and selfless do-gooding. It’s also a tale tinted by lessons learned about the wrong ways to help kids turn their lives around.

For example, founder Chris Yanov has learned that harping on kids about avoiding drugs — the age-old just-say-no approach — just doesn’t work. “Every time I talked about a negative issue, I legitimized it,” he said. “It was like telling a kid on a tightrope not to look down. It’s well-intentioned advice, but they’re going to look down, fall.”

Obamacare: What About the Homeless?

Health care reform requires just about everybody to buy health insurance or pay a penalty. But what about immigrants who are here illegally and people who are homeless?

In the latest edition of Second Opinion, our ongoing series of questions-and-answers about the Affordable Care Act, we note that there are exceptions to the buy-coverage-or-pay-a-penalty law.

VOSD Radio: Bike On!

VOSD’s weekly radio-show-and-podcast features an interview with Andy Hanshaw, executive director of the countywide Bicycle Coalition. He takes on the skeptics in a way that’s sure to chap some hides: “We’re not taking away people’s right to drive. And we’re not impacting sort of their ability to move around by car. We’re giving people choices to get around in other ways. If we’re creating a route and taking a couple of car parking spaces away, I don’t think it’s a huge impact on a driver’s ability to move around.”

• Speaking of figuring out how to make our city more liveable (at least for some people), the most popular story on the VOSD site last week was our extensive look at the issue of “suburban retrofitting,” especially in regard to the heated battle over Carmel Valley’s One Paseo project. Check out the entire Top 10 most-popular list here.

Uncovering Shoddy Care for the Elderly

It’s pretty much a truism of journalism: Look into your community’s treatment of the elderly and you’re likely to find shocking stories of mistreatment and poor oversight. Case in point: The U-T’s new investigation, in conjunction with the CHCF Center for Health Reporting at the University of Southern California, into assisted living homes.

“At least 80 times in recent years, employees at San Diego County assisted living homes overlooked serious medical issues, gave the wrong medication or otherwise failed to properly care for vulnerable seniors,” the U-T reports in one story.

Another new story reveals how these homes usually fail to pay fines promptly and often never bother to pay them at all; hundreds statewide and more than 36 in the county fit in those categories.

An influential state senator is calling for hearings in response to the U-T coverage.

Quick News Hits

• The legal battle over Southern California water rights keeps going on and on and on. Tomorrow, the Associated Press reports, a trial in San Francisco will pit the county water authority against the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which supplies much of our water.

Essentially, the county water authority says the Metropolitan Water District is ripping us off while giving price breaks to the rest of Southern California.

• “The U.S. Navy plans to increase sonar testing over the next five years, even as research it funded reveals worrying signs that the loud underwater noise could disturb whales and dolphins,” NBC San Diego reports. “Reported mass strandings of certain whale species have increased worldwide since the military started using sonar half a century ago. Scientists think the sounds scare animals into shallow waters where they can become disoriented and wash ashore.”

• Oh, U-T. This is awkward. The paper apologized.

• A debate has broken out over at the uber-website Reddit over the quintissential San Diego food.

California burritos, perhaps? Nonsense! (I say this as a native who’s still recovering from the mockery that ensued after I fessed up to not knowing what they are.) There’s also some talk on Reddit of carne asada fries and of taquitos, which boast some heritage at the venerable El Indio restaurant.

But I’m going to have to go with the fish taco, if only because it keeps cabbage — normally a culinary menace — off the streets.

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego and vice president of the American Society of Journalists & Authors. Please contact him directly at randydotinga@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/rdotinga.

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Randy Dotinga

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. Please contact him directly at randydotinga@gmail.com...

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