For Immediate Release

July 23, 2015

Contact:  Jeff Simmons, 917-673-0024, [email protected]

New York SmartCEO Selects Breakthrough new york executive director rhea wong as 2015 brava award winner


(New York, N.Y.) – New York SmartCEO has selected Rhea Wong, Executive Director of Breakthrough New York, as a 2015 Brava Award winner. The Brava Awards celebrate the distinguished achievements of 40 of New York’s top women business leaders.

“Brava winners possess the hallmark qualities of successful leaders — vision, passion, compassion, dedication, perseverance. Each winner in this year’s class exhibits these qualities in all facets of her life, from running her business to tending to her family and donating time and resources to philanthropic initiatives,” says Jaime Nespor-Zawmon, president of SmartCEO Events. “We are honored to recognize a group of women who are truly making a difference in the world.”

The winners will be profiled in the September/October issue of SmartCEO magazine and celebrated at an awards ceremony on September 28, 2015 at Capitale. The event will kick off with a cocktail reception, followed by a video-packed awards ceremony and a final, inspirational toast to the female leaders of New York.

Rhea Wong joined Breakthrough New York in September 2005.  Her relationship began with Breakthrough as a Breakthrough middle school student in San Francisco, then called Summerbridge.

Thanks to the doors opened for her, she went on to attend the Thacher School, and obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree with honors from McGill University in Montreal, Canada. She also holds a certificate in non-profit management from Columbia Business School.

Ms. Wong began her professional career with Breakthrough as a Teaching Fellow while in high school and, later, in college.  She taught at Summerbridge sites in Hawaii, Hong Kong and New York, and was the first-ever Teaching Fellow to be hired at Breakthrough New York in 1999. 

Following her college graduation, she worked at the Breakthrough Collaborative National Office in San Francisco in national Teaching Fellow recruitment at top university campuses nationwide, and created the Collaborative’s first on-campus recruiter program.

Since starting as Breakthrough New York’s Executive Director in 2005, Ms. Wong has opened two additional Breakthrough New York sites, grown its staff and services, increased the number of students served, and expanded the yearly operating budget by 800%. She also has become a voice for education policies at the local, citywide, and national levels and has been featured on television and in print and radio.

Ms. Wong credits the Breakthrough program for putting her on a path to success and is deeply passionate about giving back, and opening doors for generations of other students like her.

Since launching in 1999, Breakthrough New York has served hundreds of students and families from across New York City, and regularly serves over 350 students each year. This year, under Ms. Wong’s leadership, the nonprofit expanded its support from six to ten years – helping its students since they finish sixth grade not only get to college but through college.

Breakthrough New York operates at The Town School on the Upper East Side, and Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School in Brooklyn. Starting this fall, a group of its Bronx students will attend afterschool classes at a third site, New York Junior Tennis & Learning’s new Cary Leeds Center for Tennis & Learning in Crotona Park in the South Bronx.

Over the last five years, 100% of its students went on to specialized high schools, boarding schools and prep schools, and 100% of its students went on to four-year colleges in 2014. Each year, demand for Breakthrough New York’s services is steep; in 2015, 250 applications were received for the 99 spots in Breakthrough New York’s newest class.

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