VIRTUAL SUMMER REPORT
Despite the challenges students faced this summer, it was also a summer of joyful moments. Our Breakthrough community came together to build bonds of friendship, learn new things, and recover from a difficult year. Students strengthened their academic skills, learned strategies for college success, practiced leadership, and grew their professional networks. At the same time, AmeriCorps service members gained firsthand teaching experience that will help them become education and social justice champions. See below for few highlights from the Breakthrough summer.
MIDDLE SCHOOL SUMMER ACADEMY
This summer, Breakthrough students took part in a five-week Summer Academy designed to help them learn, discover new academic interests, and connect with a community that cares deeply about their well-being. Our summer curriculum provided 60 hours of virtual instruction centered on supporting student and family well-being, developing academic competencies for success in middle school and high school, building community and authentic connections, and engaging students in meaningful activities that build experiential capital and support their goal of becoming first-generation college graduates. This year’s program was also designed to respond to the pandemic’s impact on our community, helping students successfully re-enter their school setting this fall and recover academically and social/emotionally as they rebound from the disruption of the last school year.
Coursework was led by motivating, college-aged AmeriCorps Teaching Fellows from across the country who dedicated a summer of service to inspiring students toward their educational dreams.
Complimenting this programming, advisors provided intensive, personalized support. Through a referral network and formal partnerships as well as a Student Support Fund, Breakthrough connects families to resources as needed, including professional counseling, housing support, legal services, technology and internet access, and funds for emergency basic needs.
Each student also received a “BT in a Box” care package to let them know they are connected and cared for by their Breakthrough family. From school supplies to their community novel, a STEM kit, student-designed t-shirt and more, students put their care packages to good use this summer!
“My favorite thing about Breakthrough is that all of these amazing teachers and advisors are coming together to help us Breakthrough students get into college.
– Anastasia, rising Del Valle ISD 7th Grader
Breakthrough Middle School students on their first 2021 in-person field trip to St. Andrea’s Episcopal School, where the engaged in team Olmpics events, Water Baloon Toss, and more!
HEAR FROM OUR STUDENTS
Super School Olympics
My Pathways Week
More than 100 middle school students and 40 Teaching Fellows attended this in-person field trip to St. Andrew’s Episcopal School, taking part in a friendly competition to test their college knowledge. Students created a college video with fun facts about the school, a chant, and all kinds of college spirit. Afterward, they competed in events Olympics-style, such as Anagram Puzzles, Breakthrough Jeopardy, Water Balloon Toss, and many more!
Students explored their own pathways to success by hearing from high school and college students, as well as career professionals. More than 33 volunteers presented on their profession and career path, sharing inspiring messages and advice. Because of our incredible volunteers, we were able to help our students broaden their perspective on career opportunities possible to them with a college education.
Thanks to partnerships with AMD and MakerSpace, more than 300 students learned about careers in STEM and participated in hands-on projects using STEM kits. AMD volunteers guided students though the activity, encouraging students to problem solve and think creatively, just like engineers. An AMD guest speaker inspired students with their personal career story and shared their own journey to becoming the first in their family to graduate from college.
“One of my favorite things about this summer was being able to talk about what’s happening in the world that impacts us, like racism and social justice. I also liked learning more about the country I’m from in an Exploration Class. I’m from Cameroon, Africa, and in our Exploration Class, we were taught about the different countries in Africa. It was cool to be able to learn more about my country and culture.”
– Sheila, 7th Grade
EXPANDING OUR REACH TO HOUSTON
Leveraging our long-standing position as a successful AmeriCorps program, Breakthrough Central Texas applied for and received approval to host Breakthrough Houston as they bring the valuable asset of AmeriCorps to their own Summer Academy. With this expansion, 102 AmeriCorps members served as Teaching Fellows for Houston middle school students this past summer.
We are thrilled to partner with Breakthrough Houston to make a bigger impact on Texas and support more young people to become change-makers through service.
HIGH SCHOOL INSTITUTES
As most of our high school students spent the 2020-2021 school year attending school virtually, our summer programming emphasized connection, helping students re-engage with their Breakthrough community. Although most programming was hosted online, small groups of students met up for team building activities and field trips. Advising continued virtually and many students met one-on-one with their advisor in-person.
10th Grade Leadership Institute
Students attended a summer institute focused on developing communication, self advocacy, and leadership skills by identifying goals that will help them on their path to college, learning about their rights as young people with the University of Texas Law School, and exploring potential careers.
11th Grade Professional Institute
Students took part in a number of workshops exploring career and college majors, learning about postsecondary options, building resumes, practicing important skills aligned with their career interests, learning skills that support their mental health, and engaging in internships around the community.
Rising seniors prepared for the college application season by finalizing their college lists, completing essays and applications, and getting a head start on their FAFSA or TASFA before the start of their senior year.
Our College Completion Team helped our largest-ever graduating class transition to their first semester of college. A key focus was combatting enrollment melt, a phenomenon where students accepted to college do not attend in the fall. Advisors coordinated enrollment steps and provided the encouragement to help students maintain their identity as college goers despite the uncertainty of the moment. In early July, Breakthrough hosted “Thrive Summit,” a week-long virtual retreat where students heard from other Breakthrough college students about their first year in college, connected with representatives from universities around Texas, and engaged in workshops around financial literacy, healthy choices, and what it means to be a first-generation college student.
Breakthrough college freshmen at Zip Lost Pines on their final day of the Thrive Summit
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.
Juniors and Seniors
This summer, the College Completion Team ensured junior and seniors in college were supported as they transitioned back-to-school in this uncertain climate.
This summer, 49 college students interned at companies around Central Texas as part of our Future Focus Internship Program. Future Focus connects a diverse pipeline of well-trained and highly motivated college students to hiring managers and organizations offering full-time, paid professional internships. Interns spent their summer exploring careers, attending professional development workshops and honing in on presentation and communication skills.
2021 SUMMER PROGRAM SUPPORTERS
City of Austin Public Health
Harman-Mayes-Sooch Family Fund
Michael and Alice Kuhn Foundation
Topfer Family Foundation