Allison Cooper - Breakthrough Santa Fe

Allison Cooper - Breakthrough Santa Fe

Name: Allison Cooper
Breakthrough Program: Breakthrough Santa Fe
School Attending/Year: University of Virginia / 2013

I ended the summer with purple hair, white skinny jeans, glitter on my nails, and purple shoe laces.  Some might say that I turned into a middle school student.  I say that they taught me how to be cool.  Heck, I know how to shuffle now!

Now, by cool, I don’t mean to be citing my appearance.  Instead, I am talking about my newfound form of self-expression.  I’ve never dared to be so flashy before, and I like it.  Perhaps once I leave my bubble of Breakthrough, I will look at my hair in disgust and flick off the glitter from my nails.  My shoe laces might creep back into their box, the black ones returning me to “normalcy.”  But I don’t think so. 

Middle school students are at that time in their life where they’re simultaneously testing and pushing the limits.  They’re developing their style and their sense of self.  It may change 15 times in the next few years, but at least they’re devoting some of their time to exploring.  It is a malleable age, and they’re willing to play with crayons and glitter glue or have philosophical conversations with you about how time and the universe work.   Middle school and college students share that in common; we are both “coming of age” so to speak.

As this summer comes to an end, I find myself reflecting on exactly what Breakthrough means for the teachers and students alike.  I’ve determined that it’s the same thing.  Yeah, there is all of that detailed PR material for the teachers about developing your teacher identity and helping your students learn how to love learning – that’s Breakthrough’s twofold mission and my recruiter creed.  But that’s just what’s on the surface.  Breakthrough is about self and community.   Teachers and students alike are given a safe place where they can, for perhaps the first time in their lives, explore who they are and reveal it to the world, the Breakthrough world.  It is a high-stakes, high-energy, high-pressurized environment that forces a group of people to suddenly love each other and be kooky.  Breakthrough isn’t all ice cream and unicorns.  It is a gritty, messy place in which people have to explore both their best and worst sides of themselves.  You fall, you scrape your nose, you get up, and you have people to laugh and cry with you.  Scrapes aside, Breakthrough does not separate teachers from students in its impact.  It bulldozes all of us and then puts us back together as who we want to be.