My name is Marquise, and I am currently a 7th grade Science Teacher for Team 2 at this beautiful UT Site. This is my second year as a Breakthrough teacher and I am proud to say that I am a product of Breakthrough. This means that 10 years ago, I was in the same spot as the students you will meet today. Like these students, I am also on my own path to become a first-generation college graduate. I am finishing my undergrad degree in Music Education at the luxurious Prairie View A&M University.
For the next few minutes or so, I am going to share with you my Breakthrough Story. I wish I could share all the amazing things that this fantastic organization has done for me, sadly time won’t permit it. Breakthrough has been such a positive experience in my life. I joined Breakthrough in 2008, back when it was called “Breakthrough: Austin,” since then the name has changed to Breakthrough: Central Texas. It warms my heart to know that BT has expanded its’ services to other parts of Texas. My background is like a series of unfortunate events that somehow came to a positive happy ending. I am from New Orleans, Louisiana and the only reason why I am here today in Texas is because I am a Hurricane Katrina survivor. The event that changed my life forever, relocated my family and I, not by choice, to Austin Texas. As my mother struggled to find housing and get the FEMA check, I struggled to keep up with the new Texas Education system.
During this transition, I noticed how behind I was in terms of education, different state, different educational requirements. With hard work and support from my teacher, Mr. Estrada, I managed to pass the then TEKS test and advance to 7th grade. Mr. Estrada noticed that I was still having trouble with the overall curriculum. Luckily, at that time my school, Zavala Elementary was being visited by Breakthrough. Mr. Estrada urged me to apply to the program, saying that it would help me get ahead so I could make better grades. I turned in my application and waited for the return letter [call]. I was accepted in to the program, I felt so proud of myself. I have never been accepted into any program before. Soon after my acceptance into the program, I did what most BT students did and caught the city bus to the University of Texas. Now that I think of it, because of Breakthrough I had my first experience of being on a college campus. I truly enjoyed my summers with Breakthrough, I had the incredible opportunity to learn and meet new people. To this day, I will never forget my 7th grade advisor Tricia Hassenfield. Tricia was my English teacher that was studying at Brown University. She travelled all the way to Texas to teach at Breakthrough. She taught me how to be kind and love who I am. From her example of her willingness to understand people and their backgrounds, I was able to see the world in a different light.
I excelled in the summer and because of that I was able to prosper during the school years. Years passed, and Breakthrough became part of my family. I spent every summer with Breakthrough and with every summer came a new experience. I could think of the days when I would go to the Breakthrough office to do my homework and meet up with my friends. Before I knew it, I was in high school applying for college. Breakthrough helped me throughout the entire process. I am happy to say that I am finishing up my college years loans free. With Breakthrough’s help I got scholarships and work study to pay for school. They stressed the importance of keeping up with your grades, so that you could be eligible to get grants and scholarships.
I realized that I wouldn’t be the person I am today if it wasn’t for Breakthrough. I considered the total impact the program had on my life. There had to be something I can do to show my appreciation and give back my time to this wonderful organization. Why wouldn’t I be a Breakthrough teacher? I mean it was perfect, I had a chance to inspire the next generation while also gaining experience for my future career. Breakthrough has given so much to me, I could only do my part and give back to this community. My hopes for my students is to realize their potential and actively use the resources that are presented to them. I want to instill in them to dream big and to know that they have the capacity to be and do whatever they want in life.
Before Breakthrough, I didn’t even know, think, about college. With the guidance of this encouraging community, I am one step closer to my dream which is to open my very own fine arts academy. Breakthrough is who I am now, it shaped my character. My only wish is to do the same for others.