At Breakthrough Collaborative, our work is clear: to inspire students, develop teachers, and #BreakthroughTogether. Each summer, this mission is brought to life in remarkable ways as dedicated teams across the country support our students and Teaching Fellows on their pathway to success. Join us as we celebrate the incredible achievements our affiliates had this summer, taking a closer look at one of our outstanding affiliates, Breakthrough Cincinnati.
Back to operating at two sites after the pandemic, Breakthrough Cincinnati (BTC) engaged around 200 students and 64 Teaching Fellows (TFs) to their program this summer. History was made as they welcomed their most diverse class of TFs in the organization’s 30+ year history: 62% were young people of color and 28% were male. Those are remarkable numbers when you consider that in Ohio, just 5% of educators are people of color and 25% are male.
“For diverse students to be taught by diverse faculty changes the learning experience; students perform better and benefit relationally from having mentors who look like them.” – Dr. Cady Short-Thompson, Executive Director at Breakthrough Cincinnati
When asked about this milestone, Dr. Cady Short-Thompson, Executive Director at BT Cincinnati, explained, “For diverse students to be taught by diverse faculty changes the learning experience; students perform better and benefit relationally from having mentors who look like them.” She recalled a memorable moment with a student’s father who shared, “This was the first and only program that my son participated in that has affirmed his Blackness.” Short-Thompson continued, “I was moved by his comment and found it compelling. BTC creates a culture that affirms and connects. For students, it’s a powerful experience during identity formation.”
In addition to increased diversity, the Cincinnati affiliate also received increased funding from AmeriCorps, which allowed them to hire more TFs embodying a service mindset. In this, their first year partnering with AmeriCorps, Breakthrough Cincinnati recruited 53 AmeriCorps members to serve on their summer staff team. Dr. Tiffany Dolder-Holland, Program Director at BTC’s University of Cincinnati (UC) site, expressed gratitude for AmeriCorps support, explaining, “The input of so many service-minded team members allowed us to reach more students. They listened to their students and revamped Jambalaya (our talent show) and created new BTC cultural memories. Hosting so many amazingly talented changemakers on multiple campuses made Summer 2023 one for the history books.”
Classroom instruction by Teaching Fellows was only one part of what made this summer transformational for Breakthrough Cincinnati students. The two sites also hosted a Career Day, which included eight local partners: University Research Labs, Huenited Collective, Northern Kentucky University (NKU) Simulation Lab, AMEND Consulting, Cincinnati Zoo, WVXU, Galen College, and Messer Construction. Students participated in a wide range of hands-on activities that explored fields in technology, healthcare, marketing, conservation, and more! Students who met with Huenited Collective, a group focused on elevating Black creatives, brainstormed and designed new products and campaigns for brands like Powerade, Chick-fil-A, Nike, and local Black-owned businesses. Meanwhile, students with NKU Simulation Lab learned how to care for a patient by participating in a simulation, practicing CPR techniques, and exploring a virtual reality world.
“In the BTC community, we strive to create safe spaces for all to grow, learn, and thrive together!” – Elana Elmore, Program Director at Cincinnati Country Day School
The summer wrapped with huge celebrations at both sites to celebrate BTC students and all their accomplishments. Students showcased projects for their loved ones and put on several performances including the debut of the Music Appreciation class’s original song, “Me and My Breakthrough Crew,” as well as videotaped skits, and dance routines from the Indian Rhythms classes. Elana Elmore, Program Director at BTC’s Cincinnati Country Day School site, noted a memorable moment for her was when some of the 7th-grade students shared poems they had written dealing with significant topics like death, loss, and self-identity.
“As a Program Director, I was proud to see students courageous enough to be vulnerable and teachers who met them there, supported them, and challenged them to seek purpose beyond their pain. In the BTC community, we strive to create safe spaces for all to grow, learn, and thrive together!”
Watch BTC’s celebration performances here.
KUDOS to Breakthrough students, Teaching Fellows, and staff across the country for another successful summer. And cheers to the entire Breakthrough community who unite to empower students and the next generation of leaders and educators. Let’s continue to propel the mission of equity in education forward, one breakthrough at a time!
See what other affiliates were up to this summer: