Mission and Vision

Photo: Breakthrough Birmingham


Students Teaching Students

Breakthrough uses a unique “students-teaching-students” model to create our rigorous, vibrant learning communities across the nation, where highly motivated, traditionally underrepresented students achieve post-secondary success and emerging leaders are inspired to become the next generation of educators and advocates.



Equitable Access

We envision a nation populated by transformational learning communities, where equitable access to excellent opportunities propels aspiring students on their path to college and aspiring teachers on their path to the classroom.


Breakthrough has been improving educational outcomes for young people since 1978, with the establishment of a single site at University High School in San Francisco. Over the next 20 years, Breakthrough grew to a collective of independent sites across the country.

Today, the Breakthrough national office located in Oakland, CA serves a collaborative network of 24 Breakthrough affiliates throughout the U.S. by providing program standards and resources including curricula, evaluation tools, and teaching fellow recruitment. Breakthrough affiliates carry out direct services to middle and high school students from under-resourced communities, with college undergraduates serving as teaching fellows, and professional teachers serving as instructional coaches in their localities.


1978Lois Loofburrow founded the first Breakthrough program under the name Summerbridge. Summerbridge was designed as a six-week summer program for middle schoolers at University High School in San Francisco. The multi-year program was tuition-free—the cost of participation was the student’s full commitment.

1979Summerbridge staffed its math department entirely with high school teachers, with professional teachers as mentors. The students-teaching-students and teachers-coaching-teachers model was born.

1980Summerbridge hired its first college-aged teachers.

1990 Summerbridge New Orleans was founded with support from the directors of Summerbridge San Francisco and the affiliate model was created.

1991Summerbridge National was founded with the intent of launching more independently-run programs across the country. A new program in Manchester, New Hampshire, and a second site in San Francisco, opened for the summer.

1992 Ten new programs opened for the summer.

1994Twenty-six Summerbridge programs operated across the country.

2001Summerbridge National became the Breakthrough Collaborative national office.

TodayToday Breakthrough Collaborative has 24 affiliate sites across the country that collectively serve over 10,000 middle school students and over 1,100 teaching fellows each year. The Breakthrough Collaborative national office is based out of Oakland, CA.