During a summer of crisis, Breakthrough adapted its summer programming to help students stay connected and supported. Offered online, our summer programs focused on offering enrichment activities, making sure students stay on track academically, and reminding students that no matter what challenges they face, their Breakthrough family is there for them. 

Complimenting this programming, advisors offered intensive, personalized support, helping families overcome the tremendous challenges posed by COVID-19, including unemployment, food insecurity, mental health concerns, and lack of technology. Breakthrough’s advising model and trusting relationships with students and families allows for a close understanding of the needs of our community and rapid deployment of support.

One of the first Zoom calls I made was to one of my seniors and within 15 minutes, his older sister (who is a college student in our program), mom, and dad (who was off camera but still in the room) joined the conversation. THAT is what continues to drive our work – the connection we’re able to maintain during this health crisis and the ability to SEE our students and families. Honestly, I think it helps that they get to see us too in all of our realness and non-traditional spaces. There’s a reciprocity of trust, love, and security that has come with some of the changes which is fantastic and motivating.

– Dorothy Vasquez, Associate Director of Programs


As our students charted new virtual territory this summer, Breakthrough staff sought a way to bring them a sense of community. More than 1,200 “BT in a Box” care packages were mailed to the homes of every single middle school student in our program. Each box contained two community novels (The Poet X & Blended), a t-shirt designed by BT student Yadira Ramos, pens, pencils, a notebook, a letter from Breakthrough, and of course, snacks!  

Digital Time Capsule

Summer 2020 Independent Project

During the Virtual Summer Academy, middle school students met three times per week over the course of four weeks with their peers and AmeriCorps Teaching Fellows, with additional offline assignments to inspire and encourage further learning. Recognizing the significance of our current moment in time and its impact on the Breakthrough community, student work focused on our current world. Through multi-disciplinary projects, students explored the effects of recent protests and COVID-19 through a lens of social justice. The collection of these student works culminated in a digital time capsule.    

Additional learning experiences included reading a community novel, virtual field trips, and cultural enrichment activities. Students also had the opportunity to connect with other students in their grade level or their entire program at All School Meetings (assemblies) offered virtually each day.

Breakthrough advisors connected one-on-one with students throughout the summer to support their health and well-being and set up them up for a successful transition back to school in the fall. 

My favorite part of being a Breakthrough Teaching Fellow this summer was being able to make history, but more importantly make a difference. With the challenging times we are in now, I was able to be a part of a program that truly made a difference in the lives of the BT kids this summer and still give them a truly unique (although in many ways still classic) BT experience.  

– Adam, AmeriCorps Teaching Fellow  

My virtual summer was great. It was fun and memorable! I enjoyed that we got to communicate with people even though it wasn’t in person. This summer was different for me because it was online, and it made me learn to manage my time so I can still do the things I need to get done at home and also do school at the same time.  

– Elisabeth, 9th Grade Breakthrough Student


10th Grade Leadership Institute  

Students developed their leadership skills by practicing authentic communication, self-awareness, and civic engagement. They also kicked off their college search by learning about admissions requirements and factors to consider when selecting a school.  

11th Grade Professional Institute 

Students worked on resume and networking skills, secured virtual summer internships, and explored career options. 

Senior Institute  

Rising seniors prepared for the college application season by completing essays, Apply Texas applications and getting a head start on their FAFSA or TASFA before the start of their senior year.  

I enjoyed attending all the virtual sessions and it was really great to still have the Breakthrough experience with other seniors as well as the staff and get to know more about the college process. My favorite part was the student panel that we had towards the end, as well as just going every Tuesday and Thursday for an hour to work

 Amaris12th grade Breakthrough student


At Breakthrough, I work primarily with the high school students and the Class of 2020. I feel confident saying that our senior class has been much more comfortable navigating their next steps during this pandemic knowing that Breakthrough can still support them in such an individualized manner. “Screen-sharing” has permitted advisors who work with seniors to walk through complicated processes, such as Financial Aid Verification. Face-to-face virtual meetings have permitted us to answer burning questions families have around college enrollment and have even given us the opportunity to Zoom with college partners. 

– Christi Almeida, Associate Director of High School Programs


Incoming Freshmen 

To combat Summer Melt, our College Completion Team sought virtual ways to prevent the summer melt for our largest graduating class. In early July, Breakthrough hosted our “Thrive Summit,” a week-long virtual retreat where students had the opportunity to hear from other BT college students about their first year in college, connect with representatives from universities around Texas, and engage in workshops around financial literacy, healthy choices, growth mindset and what it means to be a 1st-gen student in college. 


The College Completion Team made concerted advising efforts to encourage student retention and persistence, and, ultimately, prevent the “Sophomore Slump.”  The goals this summer were to support students in major and school changes, hold individual sessions to isolate future needs, and assist students in finding additional avenues of student engagement at their university.

Junior & Seniors

This summer, the College Completion Team ensured junior and seniors in college were supported as they transition back-to-school in this uncertain climate.


City of Austin Public Health
Donald D. Hammill Foundation
Farm Credit Bank
Harman Mayes Sooch Family Fund

Long Foundation
Lowe Foundation
Maximus Foundation
Michael and Alice Kuhn Foundation
National Instruments
Norbert H. Hardner Foundation

OneStar Foundation
Seawell Elam Foundation
Silicon Labs
Strake Foundation
Topfer Family Foundation