Breakthrough New York transforms the lives of talented kids from low-income backgrounds by providing educational support from middle school through college and into careers. We also inspire talented young people to enter careers in education through our students-teaching-students model. Our goal is to create leaders who break the cycle of poverty in their families and affect positive change in their communities.
We know that the students with the highest potential are most often the ones who are ignored in large public school classrooms. Teachers are often not able to devote the time or resources to cultivate their talent, yet these are the students who are most likely to be leaders and college graduates among their peers. Our organization was founded to harness and support the potential of these young people who, with our guidance, will change the trajectory of their lives.
We began in 1999 as a first-in-class middle school program. Today, Breakthrough New York’s support continues through college graduation. That’s a 10-year commitment. It’s totally unprecedented in our field.
We are not a large organization. Built from the ground up, we maximize the educational opportunity for over 500 students. In so doing, we contribute significantly to help break the cycle of poverty by positioning our kids to earn incomes to sustain themselves and their families.
We are committed to growing to the point where we can support more students, right through their entire college experience and into their first jobs. We firmly believe it can be done. In point of fact, it must be done.
We know what is required to provide a full, transformative experience for our students. We want our kids to leave the program ready and able to take their respective places, as vibrant contributors to our society. That is our goal.
To do that, we found it’s not good enough to prepare students for high school, or even prepare them for college. As our name implies, Breakthrough, real breakthrough in the adult world, requires a commitment through higher education, which will lead to a lifetime of learning, impact and success.
The numbers bear it out. Our goal is a 90% college graduation rate. However, without support through college, only about 11% of low-income students will graduate from a four-year university.
The formula for success
Our successes are clear. Aside from the placement in top colleges and high schools, our students demonstrate up to a semester of academic growth in math and reading after our summer session.
What’s our secret? Our students-teaching-students model.
It starts in middle school. We hire and train high school and college students to teach our kids in summer and school-year programs throughout middle school, and to be positive role models. Our academic near-peer mentoring model has achieved extraordinary results and inspires our students because it’s “cool to be smart” here.
And, by the way, that program has led to a whole cadre of people who have gone on to careers in education. We are a Top Ten Princeton Review Internship and have hundreds of college students from top colleges applying to teach with us every summer.
In essence, through our student-teaching-students program, we’re also creating a whole new generation of teachers — over the past three years, 98% of our graduating teacher interns have gone on to pursue careers in education.
We’re addressing the education crisis in two ways: supporting college graduates and training high-quality future teachers.
So far, so good. Over the past five years, 96% of our students have gone on to college, compared to a national average of 52%. And, this year, thanks in part to our initial college support, fully 100% of our students who have entered four-year colleges have stayed on and returned for their sophomore year.
Further, 100% of our eighth graders entered high schools this fall, and they’re all college preparatory.
We’re very proud of these facts. But the reality is that it doesn’t come easily.
let's hear from our students
“I think the most amazing thing about Breakthrough is that they believe in each and every one of their students 100%. It was their faith in me that helped me have faith in myself and forge a path that would lead to great opportunities.”
— DePauw University freshman.
“Breakthrough is one of those commitments you don’t see yourself fulfilling until you do, and you become grateful to yourself for not allowing yourself to quit. I’ve seen the fruits of my labor.”
— University of Chicago freshman.
“Being able to head off to a college I had only dreamed of attending… is an incredibly exciting opportunity…. I wouldn’t be able to be where I am today without the people and resources Breakthrough has connected me to.”
— Yale University freshman.
how it works
For us, the process begins all the way back, when our kids enter the program as sixth graders. We identify high potential low-income students through recommendations from their teachers and guidance counselors. From there, all students apply through a rigorous application and interview process. Our students show us that they want to work hard and commit to a ten year path to and through college.
It’s an extraordinary commitment, and it’s not for everyone. Our students receive concentrated summer and after-school tutoring throughout middle school, and that culminates with help on high school application tests. We specifically educate students and their families to assess schools carefully, and we emphasize college prep standards.
The process continues in high school, through class meetings, summer enrichment opportunities, internships, career preparation and test prep, and that leads to and through college. We not only provide the student with the tools to succeed in an academic environment, but we deliver students who are committed to making themselves and the world better.
our core values
Our Core Values are the fundamental beliefs to which we uphold our students, staff, and community members. Our values are:
We learn and lead flexibly and constantly. The best leaders are constant learners. We are courageous in doing what is right and necessary. We are relentlessly curious about how to be better.
We embrace the sense of the possible. Every day is an opportunity to innovate, to grow, and to learn. We believe that making new mistakes means that we are stretching and we are never complacent. We approach experiences with a sense of optimism, joy and infinite possibility.
Relationships matter. Through the trust and confidence that we build in our community, we work together to accomplish great things. We nurture our relationships through a spirit of generosity and mutual respect. We celebrate our differences and that which unites us.
We model integrity. In our community and in each other we trust. We operate with honesty, honor and commitment to doing what is right.
We are all in. We are highly engaged with each other, with our students and with our mission. We work hard and aim high because we are deeply dedicated to changing the world. We do what it takes to get it done.
HOW WE ARE DIFFERENT In the field
We differ from other peer organizations in four key ways:
- Our students-teaching-students model in which we hire and train college and high school students to teach. Through our dual mission model, we’re educating future college graduates AND inspiring future generations of educators.
- Our ten year program to support our kids from middle school to college graduation. Being the first in your family to graduate from college is not easy and we’re there every step of the way until our students can fly on their own.
- Our commitment to finding the highest achieving students with the greatest financial needs. We’re not interested in serving families who could afford to pay for supplemental services to nurture their child’s intellect. We’re looking for kids who have talent and motivation but would not otherwise be able to access college without our support.
- Our whole family approach. Part of our admissions process entails interviewing families to ensure that they too are committed to education and college graduation. Though families may not know how to get their kids to the finish line, we have to know that our families are partners in this endeavor. We think of it as serving families, not just kids.
What’s next for Breakthrough New York?
- Expand our college services, in order to increase our college graduation rate to 90% and to ensure 90% of our students are employed in a career-oriented job six months after college graduation.
- Add additional inner city facilities, in order to expand the number of students in the program.
- Make an investment in teacher recruitment and training to handle the expansion and send more qualified teachers into the classroom.
WHAT do we need?
Help provide financial support and other resources that will enable us to continue to broaden our reach, and ensure that we send mature and prepared college graduates out in the world to make their mark and build the next generation of educators to impact the world.