In the sprawling landscape of education, where barriers often loom large, Assistant Principal and former Breakthrough Philadelphia Teaching Fellow, Nick Wilson, is devoted to helping young people win. Wilson’s trajectory is a testament to the transformative power of education and the pivotal role organizations like Breakthrough play in shaping the futures of aspiring educators, particularly from communities of color.

Wilson’s career journey has been heavily influenced by a strong educational legacy, with family members paving the way in various roles within academia. He also recalls a pivotal figure who influenced his trajectory as a student and his path forward: his fourth grade teacher, Ms. Brobston.

At a time when he’d been labeled the “bad kid” by every other teacher, she saw something different; a curious and expressive student. “It was Ms. Brobston’s patience with me and her interdisciplinary approach to teaching music, the arts, and anything that could engage me, that really changed my life.”

When he began college, Wison was initially interested in pursuing psychology. However, after shadowing his brother, a Breakthrough Philadelphia Teaching Fellow, that same spark was ignited that so many of his relatives had experienced. “I saw the passion and the potential of educators; the impact they can have on students, and I was hooked.” 

On the other side of his enthusiasm however, lay formidable barriers, particularly  financial constraints that threatened to derail Wilson’s educational journey. When asked what was the largest obstacle Wilson faced, he said simply, “Finishing school.” According to Wilson, “I had to pay my own way and this was extremely stressful. I had a handful of friends who didn’t finish college; not because they weren’t smart, but because they didn’t have the financial means to do so.” 

While juggling multiple jobs during college, Wilson also worked with Breakthrough, which equipped him with a unique edge during interviews, instilling values of growth, purpose building, as well as a positive community to engage with. Moreover, Breakthrough’s Teaching Fellowship helped him see teaching in a new way – both the reality and the possibilities. “Breakthrough gave me a platform to test the waters of teaching without the immediate plunge into the profession,” which was invaluable as he made important decisions about his future. 

When Wilson found himself in the real world, leading a group of middle school students mere days after graduating college, he leaned on his experience with Breakthrough: the training he received, as well as the skills and traits he had developed in establishing connections with students through empathy and authenticity.

Today, Wilson is an Assistant Principal, where he finds himself confronting deep layers of systemic inequities entrenched within the educational landscape. “There are four types of oppression: personal, institutional, structural, and historical – and all of these things have an impact on students of color,” Wilson explains. “It’s my job to think about all of these potential reasons why our students show up in both productive and unproductive ways. I love the work I do, and I’m grateful to be the person to figure that out.”

“In the same way that systemic oppression compounds, so can equity and justice,” said Wilson, confirming his commitment as a life-long educator to create systems that champion equity and dignity for all students.