Mission and Vision

Photo: Breakthrough Birmingham


Breakthrough Collaborative pursues a dual mission to:

    1. Increase academic opportunity for highly motivated, underserved students and get them into college ready to succeed; and
    2. Inspire and develop the next generation of teachers and educational leaders.

Our vision is to create an empowering educational experience that results in equitable access to higher education for our students and prepares our teaching fellows for education sector roles, enabling all of our students, teaching fellows, and instructional coaches to achieve their full potential as learners, teachers, leaders, and agents of change in their communities.


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. and one in Hong Kong 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, college undergraduates serve as teaching fellows, and professional teachers serve 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.

1990Summerbridge 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.

1992Ten new programs opened for the summer.

1994Twenty-six Summerbridge programs operated across the country.

2001Summerbridge National became the Breakthrough Collaborative national office.

TodayBreakthrough Collaborative has 24 affiliate sites across the country and one in Hong Kong that collectively serve over 5,000 middle school students and over 1,000 teaching fellows each summer. The Breakthrough Collaborative national office is based out of Oakland, CA.