As the brave Class of 2020 embraces the graduation season that would not be, we adapt. While students embrace the technological advancements that allow virtual celebrations, we long for the moments taken for granted by so many generations that came before. Cords and caps will be missed, and photos with friends are replaced with Instagram stories and Messenger notifications. Yet, among all the never-woulds of 2020 due to COVID-19, we are reminded to be thankful for what we have: our health and the prospect of dreams to come.

We also have the biggest party of our students Breakthrough Experience: Breakthrough’s High School Graduation Celebration. Although we typically commemorate high school graduation with limousines, a sit-down lunch with friends and family and in-person declarations of four rhyming lines, this year looked a little different. On Saturday, May 30, we hosted a two-part Facebook Live celebration, giving students and families in Austin and Manor ISD the opportunity to reflect on all that they have achieved and the wonderful next steps in their journey toward college graduation. After all, each of our students is on a path to become the first in their family to graduate college, and that is worth celebrating!

In total, 169 high school students from Austin and Manor ISD graduated in 2020. In addition to academic and extracurricular accolades, this group applied to more than 100 colleges and universities across the country and boasts m 600 college acceptances.

During Breakthrough’s Facebook Live celebration, we gathered to honor this milestone using Zoom as a lens to see one another and capture joyous smiles of accomplishment. While students and their families shared their excitement, the Breakthrough team had a few words to share as well.

Associate Director of Middle School Programs Cristian Villalobos reflected nostalgically about the groups transformation since sixth grade:

I’m very excited for you because although you’ve grown so much, you’re also still really at the beginning of your life on your terms, making more and more decisions for yourselves. So, I’d like to congratulate you on accomplishing a major milestone, graduating high school.  You should feel proud, and we are proud of you.

 Associate Director of High School Programs Christi Almeida offered her hopes:

I hope that as you find new communities to join, they will be ones where you celebrate your individuality

I hope that as you become independent adults that you pursue what is meaningful and not what is expedient  

I hope that you never lose faith in yourselves, that you create positive change, and empower those that come after you 

I hope you fight for love because LOVE is LOVE

Associate Director of Programs Dorothy Vasquez sent students off with another list of to-dos as they transition to another chapter in their lives. Dorothy’s 10 To-Dos include:
  1. Ask more questions
  2. Learn about yourself, your identity and your history
  3. Make and keep healthy financial habits
  4. Stay close to your tribe – the people who inspire, motivate and encourage you to be YOU
  5. Never forget your roots
  6. Do good things and share them with the community
  7. Try something new
  8. Be patient with yourself and your family, especially since you are the first to go to college
  9. Never forget how much value you bring
  10. Know in your bones your family, and your Breakthrough family, will always be there
Executive Director Michael Griffith extended gratitude to students and their families:

Thank you, seniors, for being role models for hundreds of other students from across Central Texas who follow in your footsteps. One of the greatest joys of my time working at Breakthrough has been getting to see students start in middle school and end up achieving amazing things for themselves and their families. I have the true honor of seeing students who graduated last year who are now off at college. I’ve seen students from previous years, like the classes of 2016 and 2013 and 2011 and many others, who have now crossed the college graduation stage, earning a diploma or certificate. They are inspiring, creative, giving people who work in nearly every type of job you can think of, many of them at Breakthrough! Breakthrough is a community, a big extended family. Thank you for letting us be there with you on your journey so far.

We are so proud of the discipline, commitment and drive each of these students has displayed throughout the past seven years and we can’t wait to see what they accomplish next. With that, hats off to the Breakthrough Class Class of 2020!