Michael Griffith has 20 years of experience as an educator and nonprofit leader. After earning a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Texas and a Master of Education degree from Texas State University, Michael started his career as a classroom teacher, honing his skills in teaching, learning, curriculum development, and student assessment. He earned distinctions for his teaching and took on leadership roles as a mentor teacher and team leader. He supported students in and out of the classroom to fulfill their potential.
Michael joined Breakthrough as the Director of Programs in 2008. During his six-year tenure as Director of Programs, Michael managed a three-fold increase in students served, the organization’s expansions in Manor ISD and Austin ISD, the buildout of its college completion programs, and the creation of a customized Salesforce database to monitor the progress of students on their path to college graduation. In 2011, Michael was honored by Bank of America with the distinction of Emerging Leader.
In 2014, Michael took on the role of Executive Director at Breakthrough. Since that time, he has supported Breakthrough as it has expanded extensively to serve more students in multiple school districts in Central Texas and at colleges and universities across the country. Michael has expertise in educational best practices, partnership development, research and reporting, project planning, strategy formation, organizational leadership, and nonprofit governance. Michael is a founding member of the Austin College Access Network and is widely respected in the Central Texas nonprofit community.
As Chief Development Officer, Grace leads a team of talented and caring professionals and volunteers to secure the rapidly increasing support needed to fund Breakthrough’s expansion efforts across Central Texas. Since joining Breakthrough in 2014, annual revenue has doubled from $2million to $4million. Grace is driven by her belief in the power of education to break the cycle of generational poverty and by the transformational impact a single individual can have on another’s life through philanthropy.
Over the course of her career, Grace has led efforts to secure millions of dollars in philanthropic giving that has translated into protection for hundreds of abused and neglected children and provided thousands of low-income families access to quality childcare, college educations, and compassionate, end-of-life care. Before coming to Breakthrough, Grace most recently served as Director of Development at Hospice Austin, doubling the organization’s annual philanthropic revenue during her tenure. It was during this time that she also served on the founding committee of I Live Here, I Give Here and subsequently led Hospice Austin to city-wide recognition for most dollars raised via the launch of Amplify Austin’s Day of Giving. Grace served on the Trinity Child Development Center Board of Directors, securing funds for their first development director; helped plant the first racially-diverse congregation of the Presbyterian Church USA, and was honored as CASA Angel of the Year.
Grace is a proud alumna of The University of Texas in Austin, Leadership Austin Emerge (2006) and Essential (2017) and the 2016 AISD UpClose Leadership Class. She currently serves as a member of the greater Austin chapter’s Association of Fundraising Professionals Board of Directors.
Grace is the proud and harried mother of twin six-year olds who bring joy, humor and humility to her daily life.
Development, Operations, Community Engagement
Eleanor holds a Bachelor’s degree in Religion and Environmental Studies from Southwestern University. While studying at Southwestern, she joined the Student Philanthropy Council and worked in the office of Annual Giving, both of which sparked her passion for development. In her time as a fundraising professional, Eleanor has supported events with record breaking fundraising, worked closely with volunteer leaders, managed donor databases, and more. When she’s not working, Eleanor enjoys cooking with her friends, playing with her cats Violet, Dude, and Mama Dijon, and swimming in whatever watering hole she can find – no matter how cold!
Elena has spent most of her career partnering with executive leadership to recruit, retain, and develop their talent needs. She has extensive experience working with education reform organizations and non-profits in an operations and human resources capacity. Elena received a Master of Arts in Human Dimensions of Organizations and a Bachelor of Science in Communication Studies from The University of Texas at Austin and is a Society of Human Resource Management – Senior Certified Professional. /p>
Hira holds a Bachelor’s degree in Neuroscience and a minor in Business from The University of Texas at Austin. She previously served a year as an early literacy tutor with Literacy First. Hira is part of the Central South Austin middle school team as well as the volunteer coordination team.
Dell Valle Middle Schools
Will earned a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Philosophy from Boston University and a M. Ed. in Education Policy and Planning from the University of Texas at Austin, where he is currently pursuing a PhD in the same department. Following four years teaching English as a foreign language in Europe and South America, he spent five years working as a bilingual elementary classroom teacher and three more as a campus literacy specialist in Central Texas public schools. His personal and professional experiences from more than a decade as an educator in Texas and abroad inform a commitment to culturally responsive pedagogy and curriculum; asset-based, additive, agentic approaches to teaching and learning; and strengthening access to high-quality educational opportunities for all students. In his free time, Will loves to spend time outdoors hiking, biking, camping, or playing sports.
Areli received her degree in Kinesiology at Stephen F. Austin State University. She’s a proud first-generation college graduate, Austinite, and daughter of immigrants. Prior to joining Breakthrough as an AmeriCorps Leader, Areli was a Breakthrough Teaching Fellow for three consecutive summers beginning in 2015. She has a passion for both fitness and helping her community by supporting youth to help create first-generation college graduates.
Manor Middle Schools
Asia Hayes holds a Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies and Spanish University. Her depth study in Educational Justice allowed her to examine how different populations in the world regard learning and how intersectionality affects the outcomes of educational systems. Asia currently serves as an AmeriCorps Team Leader at the Manor Middle School site. After being a Breakthrough Teaching Fellow in the summer of 2018 she is excited and ready to take on her role as an AmeriCorps member.
Manor High Schools
Jayne holds bachelors’ degrees in Anthropology, Linguistics, and Spanish from Purdue University. During her time at Purdue, she was a four-year member of the Purdue All-American Marching Band on the Golduster Dance Team. Additionally, she holds the titles of Miss Black and Gold Purdue 2018, Miss Black and Gold Indiana 2018, and Miss Black 2018, 1st runner up of the region. She spent her last two years of college giving back to her community and taking on a more active role in public service by volunteering at Federated Preschool, with voter registration, for March of Dimes, and Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. This is her first year serving for AmeriCorps alongside Breakthrough where she plans to further her skills and efforts in the fight for an equitable education for first generation graduates.
Joe was born and raised in Austin, Texas and is a Breakthrough alumni. After graduating from the McCallum Fine Arts Academy, he ventured to Upstate New York to attend Ithaca College where he earned his Bachelors of Science degree in Media Management & Digital Design. Prior to joining the Manor High School team, Joe worked as a press assistant in Washington, D.C. for Texas Congresswoman Silvia Garcia. He is passionate about empowering the next generation of students of color who are the first in their family to attend college.
Northeast Austin Middle Schools
Hannah holds a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and a minor in Spanish from Tulane University. Having worked with students of different ages and backgrounds, Hannah decided to become an AmeriCorps Summer Teaching Fellow with Breakthrough upon graduation. This experience, in combination with her prior work helping launch an education access non-profit, led her to become a full-time AmeriCorps member with Breakthrough.
South/Central Austin Middle Schools
Kathryn graduated from Knox College where she earned a Bachelor’s degree in Spanish with a minor in Social Service. Prior to joining Breakthrough, Kathryn worked to write curriculum and develop programing for children with special needs. An avid traveler, Kathryn used teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) as a way to see the world. She taught in Barcelona, Spain and Buenos Aires, Argentina. She has over five years of experience teaching ESL and continues to do so in her spare time. She is honored by the opportunity to continue making a difference in the lives of students and families of marginalized communities.
Isabella graduated in 2018 with a Bachelor of Science in Communication from Santa Clara University. From California, she moved to central Thailand where she taught English to 5th and 7th graders. She is a certified yoga instructor and “Stranger Things” addict. When she is not in the office or mentoring students, she is outside enjoying the unpredictable Texas weather.
Austin High Schools
Curtis joins Breakthrough after spending seven years teaching and coaching in Austin-area high schools, having made stops at Lake Travis, LBJ, and Navarro (formerly Lanier). He is passionate about the value of education and supporting students to go after their dreams. In 2017, he was recognized as LBJ’s ‘Teacher of the Year’ as a 9th grade English teacher. Curtis is a proud graduate of Texas Christian University (TCU) in Fort Worth where he earned his bachelor’s degree in Broadcast Journalism, his master’s degree in Educational Administration, and where he also played football. Curtis enjoys spending time with his wife (Brittany) and daughter (Norah), watching sports, and attending concerts.
In 2018, David was awarded the OneStar Foundation’s 2018 National Service “Make-A-Difference” Award at the 35th Annual Governor’s Volunteer Awards. Outside of his work at Breakthrough, David is an assistant football, basketball, and track & field coach to 5th-8th grade students at St. Francis School in north Austin since the fall of 2014.
Laura was raised in Idaho and moved to Texas in 2019 to join Breakthrough as an AmeriCorps Summer Teaching Fellow, where she worked closely with the Austin ISD High School team. Laura is a proud first-generation college graduate herself from the University of Idaho. She holds two bachelor’s degrees in International Studies and Spanish. Laura is passionate about giving back to her community and motivating other first-generation college students. Si Se Puede! Go Vandals!
Daniel graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in May 2018 where he double majored in Economics and Philosophy. He is returning for his second year at Breakthrough and is really excited to get to work and help college students achieve their dreams. Daniel loves to both play and watch sports and can’t wait to attend all Austin FC games.
Marissa Peña is a first-generation college graduate and Breakthrough alumna. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and a minor in Spanish from St. Edward’s University. Having had a challenging college experience, Marissa is excited to share that experience with other Breakthrough students and support them as they encounter the many adversities that come with being a first-generation college student.