In 2002, as Austin was breaking ground on the Frost Tower, the organization that would become Breakthrough Central Texas was breaking ground of its own…

We welcomed 40 middle school students from under-resourced communities to begin a transformative learning experience.

Twenty years later, Breakthrough Central Texas has touched the lives of thousands of students and their families — and hundreds of future educators — through life changing educational experiences.

Because of our students’ hard work and determination and the community’s dedicated support over the last 20 years, Breakthrough has grown from a small program serving just 40 students annually to nearly 3,000 currently enrolled students. Today, nearly 300 students are living their dream as first in their family to earn a college degree. 

Give a gift in honor of our 20th Anniversary!


Since 2002, Breakthrough has been inspired by students and their families to reshape the future of Central Texas: A place and time where all students can experience the life-changing power of a college degree. As we celebrate this milestone anniversary, we also celebrate you! We are grateful for each member of the  Breakthrough family who has played a role in  advancing our mission, and we invite you to follow us throughout the year as we highlight inspiring examples of determination and accomplishment.

In 2000, Jessica Slade, a teacher with a master’s degree in Education Administration from the University of Texas, recognized a need in Central Texas schools. “Austin was becoming a beacon for economic development,” says Slade, “but it was striking to me that students who happened to be from low-income backgrounds were not able to benefit from Austin’s growth because they didn’t have the same educational opportunities as more affluent students. This disparity did not sit right with me. I believe all students should have the opportunity to attend college, especially in an age where it is a mandatory qualifier for most industries.” 

So, Jessica decided to make a change. Building on her experience launching a similar program in Fort Worth, Jessica threw herself into creating an Austin-based educational nonprofit that could fuel equitable access to higher education for under-represented students. She met with leaders of other non-profits, Austin ISD, the University of Texas, and community groups to learn about existing services and design a model that addressed the gaps. In 2002, Breakthrough Austin (now Central Texas) was born with Jessica at the helm as founder and executive director.


Our Story

Over the Years



In 2002, Jessica Slade launched Breakthrough Austin at Fulmore Middle School with 42 students who had both the desire and the potential to go to college.




By 2007, Breakthrough had grown by nearly 500%, serving 240 middle and high-school students.



Expansion into Manor ISD

In 2011, Breakthrough expanded from only serving students enrolled in Austin ISD to Manor ISD.



Becoming AmeriCorps

In 2011, Breakthrough became an AmeriCorps program.



First College Graduates

In 2012, the first Breakthrough students graduated college.



Expanding into Northeast Austin

In 2014, we expanded our service to Northeast Austin ISD, doubling the number of Austin students admitted to the program each year and expanding our partnership with St. Andrew’s Episcopal School.


Future Focus

In 2014, the Breakthrough Internship Network (formerly Future Focus) launched to help students earn equal access to valuable paid internships during college.



Launching UTeach Partnership 

In 2015, Breakthrough launched its partnership with the University of Texas Urban Teachers program, helping education majors achieve necessary teaching hours during summer sessions.



Rebranding for Expansion

In 2017, Breakthrough expanded from Breakthrough Austin to Breakthrough Central Texas, marking a purposeful intention to change the trajectory of higher education for students across the region.



Expanding to Del Valle

In 2017, Breakthrough doubled down on its regional commitment, and began serving students in Del Valle.



Manor’s First Graduating Class

In 2018, the first class of Breakthrough students from Manor ISD graduated high school.


The Breakthrough Challenge

In 2019 the $10 million Breakthrough Challenge kicked off with goals of doubling the number of students served by Breakthrough Central Texas AND doubling the number of Central Texas students to earn a college degree.



Launch Policy & Advocacy Practice

In 2021, Breakthrough launched its Policy and Advocacy branches to fight for equal access to education, resources, and make Central Texas the best place for students to fully realize their dreams.



Launching our Schoolwide Model in Manor ISD

In 2021, Breakthrough expanded its Manor ISD programming to feature the Postsecondary Advising Program (PSAP) at Manor New Tech High School, the organization’s first program open to all students within a school.


Breakthrough’s 20-year history has demonstrated a proven track record of success. And, we’re just getting started. We’re inspired by our students and families to do more. With your help, Breakthrough is poised to strengthen and grow this supportive community with the resources to reach our North Star: To double the number of Central Texas students from under-resourced communities who earn a post-secondary degree.