Staff

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Photo: Breakthrough Collaborative

National Leadership 

Vince Marigna, Chief Executive Officer

Vincent Marigna is Chief Executive Officer at Breakthrough Collaborative, a national network creating empowering educational experiences for traditionally underrepresented students on their path to college and the largest pre-professional teacher training program in the country. Prior to Breakthrough, Marigna served as Executive Director of Braven Newark, a career and leadership development accelerator program run out of Rutgers Newark. He also served on the New Jersey Governor’s task force focused on student success in college. Marigna spent over a decade in leadership at KIPP New Jersey, where he served as the Chief Schools Officer/Chief Academic Officer and later as the Chief People Officer.

Marigna began his career as a high school English teacher and Teach For America corps member in New Jersey, going on to join the local Teach For America staff in Newark where he coached and supported incoming teachers in that program. As a first-generation college graduate himself, Marigna has committed his career to organizations expanding educational opportunities for students from backgrounds that are historically marginalized and underserved by the education system.

Rachel Martinez de Canada, Chief Culture & Operating Officer

Rachel Martinez de Canada brings extensive recruiting, admissions, and outreach experience to Breakthrough Collaborative. Prior to joining Breakthrough, she worked as the Associate Director of Admissions at the University of Minnesota Law School where she was responsible for recruitment, administered the school’s scholarship program, and designed a summer admissions preparation program for underrepresented students. Rachel also worked in undergraduate admissions where she served as the Chicano/Latino Outreach Coordinator and Admissions Counselor and has also worked in corporate recruiting. A proud Gopher, Rachel graduated from the University of Minnesota with Distinction with a BA in sociology and Chicano studies. Outside of the office, Rachel spends her time with her husband and young daughters.
rmartinez@breakthroughcollaborative.org
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Lereca Monik, Chief External Affairs Officer

Lereca Monik is the Chief External Affairs Officer for Breakthrough Collaborative, where she is charged with the strategic leadership of two closely interwoven functions: development and marketing communications, with a dual focus on amplifying revenue generation and enhancing brand visibility. Lereca is a turnaround development executive with a track record of securing seven-figure gifts.  She has proven success in constructing mission-driven fund-development and communication plans to achieve desired results, guiding teams in fostering and cultivating constituent relationships, and converting prospects into principal investors.

Lereca is a mentor, coach, and workshop facilitator at Rice University’s Center of Philanthropy & Nonprofit Leadership, a Grace Church Garden Oaks member, and the proud mother of LeReine. She enjoys long walks in the park, reading, and helping others achieve their personal and professional success goals by assisting them in holding space for living and practicing agape- which she calls  “The AGAPE Advantage.”

Alex Serna, Chief Program Officer

Alex Serna never envisioned having a career in education someday while gambling for quarters in the back of high school Geometry class growing up in a low-income neighborhood in Anaheim, CA. He graduated high school with a 2.1 GPA, never applied to college, and was planning to enlist in the military. That was until he learned at 17 that he was going to be a father. That’s when Alex enrolled at Santa Ana College, transferring to UC Berkeley, where he earned a Bachelor’s degree in American Studies. The first-generation college grad went on to earn his Master’s degree in Urban Education and secondary social studies teaching credential from UCLA, all while raising four daughters with his partner before turning 25.

Today, he is the Chief Program Officer at the Breakthrough Collaborative. He previously served for almost eight years as the Executive Director and before that Program Director of Breakthrough San Juan Capistrano. There he led the program’s expansion into college, tripled the number of students being served, and grew their endowment to over 1 million dollars.

He supports national initiatives in education, having served on the Millennial Commission on Education as a Senior Fellow, where he helped develop key policy recommendations in the advancement of education reform. He is a Ricardo Salinas Fellow at the Aspen Institute and a 2017 Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) Emerging Leader.

Alex volunteers his time on advisory boards such as the University of California, Irvine’s School of Social Ecology Field Study Program, nonprofits like the Wellness and Prevention Center, and the Hispanic Education Endowment Fund.

He also serves as an expert on college access and educational policy. He has been featured in The New York TimesEdSurgeWashington PostThe Hill,  Diverse Issues in Higher EducationThe Hechinger Report, and NACAC’s Journal of College Admissions.

He believes passionately in the power of education and its potential to change lives, just like it transformed his. He lives in San Diego with his high school sweetheart and four daughters.

National Staff

Jonathan Appleby, National Director of Recruitment

Jonathan joins Breakthrough from his most recent position at New Door Ventures in San Francisco where he helped to execute a workforce development program for underserved transitional age youth by partnering with over a hundred businesses to provide a variety of professional experiences. There, he served on the Youth Development team as a Specialist and was responsible for developing case plans, tracking participants for success in the workplace as well as continuing to make gains in education and preparing for post-secondary success. Jonathan has also spent significant time in business partnerships outreach, cultivating relationships, and working to retain current partners throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. He has served as the Youth Director at Grace Fellowship Community Church for nine years and has partnered with several homeless outreach efforts in the San Francisco area. Jonathan also taught at San Quentin Penitentiary for several semesters and has long had a concern for addressing the gaps in diversity, equity, and inclusion that exist in education and the contemporary workforce. He lives in San Francisco with his wife and two sons and enjoys reading, coaching baseball, and getting out into the abundant natural world of the surrounding area.

Mara Bernstein, Executive Administrator

Mara is a connector and problem-solver committed to the success of education and the pursuit of inclusion, equity, and justice. She is thoroughly delighted to be part of Breakthrough Collaborative. Born and raised in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Mara attended Kenyon College (BA 2004, Anthropology and Art History) and Indiana University (MA 2012, Anthropology). Prior to joining Breakthrough Collaborative, Mara worked in advancement for Indiana University Libraries. Next to teachers, librarians and archivists are Mara’s favorite colleagues to work with because they are innovative, thoughtful, and organized. Mara lives in Bloomington, Indiana, with her wife, Jada Bee. Outside of work, Mara volunteers with the Indiana University LGBTQ+ Alumni Association and the People’s Cooperative Market where she helps build supportive communities and feeds people.

Kyle Bobrick, National Communications Manager

Kyle graduated with a bachelor’s degree in film studies from the University of Colorado. He joined Breakthrough Kent Denver’s administrative team in January 2011, and has since held positions as an 8th Grade Dean of Students and a High School Coordinator. Kyle has experience in education as a substitute teacher within Denver Public Schools and as a Breakthrough teacher for four consecutive summers. He spent three years as a cultural exchange English teacher in Denver’s sister city, Takayama, Japan. He recently earned his M.A. in communication management at the University of Denver, and previously worked as Director of Communications for Breakthrough Kent Denver.

Sara Camacho, Success Manager

Sara holds a passion for academic equality and positive out-of-school time for youth in their communities. As an only child of a single mother, both a strong education system accompanied by supportive out-of-school time activities facilitated stability and success in her life. It is no wonder why Breakthrough resonates so strongly for her. Sara began her career in elementary education, found she wanted to explore her creative side and became a hairstylist, then transitioned into the world of not-for-profits. Sara joins Breakthrough Collaborative with over five years of experience at Breakthrough Miami, having been a program site director as well as data & compliance coordinator. Her primary goals as success manager are to support and engage affiliates and the Collaborative with their use and success of the Breakthrough Starter Pack (BTSP) so that everyone can win in their missions for educational equity. Outside of the office, Sara enjoys taking in the Miami sunshine, eating tacos, and spending quality time with her family and friends. 

Michael Chong, Business Operations Manager

Born in Alabama raised in Southern California. Michael moved to Northern California to attend UC Davis. With a background in Human Resources and finance, Michael eventually made his way to the Bay Area (best country in the world.) Before Breakthrough, he worked for another non-profit as an executive associate. When he’s not working he likes to spend time hiking new trails, cooking new recipes, summiting new mountains, and spending time with his gf and golden retriever.

Jee Deogracias, Senior Director of Research & Evaluation

Jee comes to Breakthrough’s National Office having worn many hats within the K-12 education space. Most recently, she was a Senior Research Director at Hanover Research, managing research projects and program evaluations for school districts, state departments of education, and education-related non-profits across the country. Before this, she was an Evaluation and Assessment Analyst with Alexandria City Public Schools, and an elementary band teacher with Fairfax County Public Schools. She received a Bachelor of Music in flute performance with a teaching certification at the University of Michigan, a Master of Public Policy at Georgetown University, and a Doctor of Philosophy in education policy at the University of Maryland. Outside of the office, she spends the majority of her time with her husband and daughters and loves volunteering with the Special Olympics.

Christina Donahue, Culture & Collaboration Manager

Christina joins Breakthrough Collaborative with more than a decade of experience in the field of education. Her work as Director of Programming and Instruction, in addition to her years as an Instructional Coach – at our founding site, Breakthrough Summerbridge – ultimately led Christina to her current position at the national office. She is deeply passionate about educational equity, and her previous experience with a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) consultancy provides her with a strong foundation for her work with Breakthrough. Christina earned her single subject teaching credential in English and her master’s in Education from Dominican University and her bachelor’s in Journalism from Northwestern University. Outside of the office, Christina enjoys spending time with her husband and pets.

Phyllis Elick, Managing Director of Programs

Phyllis has served many roles at the National office and is currently the Managing Director of Programs. Throughout her career, she has been committed to working with traditionally underrepresented students to achieve post-secondary success and empowering aspiring leaders to become the next generation of educators and advocates. Phyllis has been with Breakthrough for 14 years, seven at the National Office and seven as the High School Program Director at Breakthrough of Greater Philadelphia. As a former teacher, Phyllis is passionate about creating opportunities for college-age students to lead their own classrooms and have a supported first-teaching experience. Phyllis has her undergraduate degree from Smith College and a Master’s degree in Education Policy from the University of Pennsylvania. She lives with her family in the Philadelphia area.


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Linda Francis, Manager of Learning and Instruction

Linda began her work with Breakthrough as a Teaching Fellow for Breakthrough Central Texas. The work she did in those two summers solidified her desire and passion for education. Once Linda earned her B.A. in Mathematics from The University of Texas at Austin (Hook ‘em) she began her teaching journey back home in Houston, TX. Although teaching AP Calculus was a rewarding experience, her true happiness came from spending multiple Summers as an Instructional Coach for Breakthrough Houston. She later transitioned to Program Director for their founding St. John’s School site. Breakthrough has truly grown Linda and shaped her throughout the years, pushing her to earn her Master’s in Curriculum & Instruction and Educational Leadership with the goal of bringing the culture and progressiveness of Breakthrough to more communities. Aside from Breakthrough Linda is a wife, mother to two amazing children, loves traveling, and a good brunch. If you have ANY good brunch spots, please don’t hesitate to share them with her.

Samantha Geary, College Access and Success Manager

Sam is a former Breakthrough program director and teaching fellow and is passionate about the Collaborative’s dual mission of serving highly motivated, traditionally underrepresented students to achieve post-secondary success while simultaneously equipping aspiring leaders to advocate for educational equity. In her previous role as the Director of College Access and Completion for Breakthrough San Juan Capistrano, for 5 years she leveraged relationship-building and robust, data-driven programming to provide college and financial aid counseling. After transitioning to an education consultant role, she has learned that counseling high school students and families through the admissions process and their college years is her strength and passion and looks forward to bringing her expertise to the national team!

Tieler Giles, Director of Marketing & Communications

Tieler Giles joins Breakthrough Collaborative with more than 15 years of experience helping nonprofit organizations effectively reach, engage, and drive audiences to action. Her work has advanced such issues as youth development, gender and racial equity, women’s health, and civil and human rights. Most recently, Tieler was Associate Director of Marketing & Communications at Girls Inc., where she led strategies to increase brand awareness and strengthen the organization’s reputation and thought leadership. In previous roles, Tieler inspired change as a marketer, fundraiser, and campaigner at the Drug Policy Alliance, the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, and Porter Novelli. A proud HBCU alumna, Tieler is a graduate of Florida A&M University and holds a master’s degree in communications from the University of Georgia. She is the daughter, granddaughter, and great-granddaughter of educators and believes in the power of education to transform lives and communities. A native of South Carolina, Tieler currently resides in Charlotte where she can be found enjoying the city’s best parks, plant-based fare, and spending time with family.

Natalie Jacobs Hall, Teaching Fellow Program Manager

During her time as an undergraduate student, Natalie spent two summers as a teaching fellow with Breakthrough Cincinnati, where her passion for the Collaborative was solidified. In her role as Recruitment Associate with the National team, Natalie brings experience in undergraduate admission and a BA in education to the forefront to recruit the next generation of teaching fellows. Outside of work, Natalie enjoys traveling, cooking, practicing yoga, and cheering for Butler Basketball.

Ambler Mauger Ochstein, National Director of Institutional Partnerships

Ambler brings a breadth of experience to Breakthrough across her 15 years in the education sector. Most recently, Ambler was a Portfolio Manager at Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies, where her focus was teacher preparation and she helped build the education grantmaking team. Her career began as a Teach For America corps member in New Orleans, where she was part of a team that founded two KIPP schools in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Ambler then joined Teach For All, where she supported programs in the early stages of adapting the Teach For All model to their local contexts and shared lessons learned across the global network. Subsequently, she was selected as a Presidential Management Fellow and appointed to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, where she led performance management and managed a portfolio of grant programs across three states and two international partners. Ambler graduated from Goucher College with a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations and earned a Master’s degree in International Education from George Washington University. Ambler loves exploring the beautiful outdoors around Oakland with her former co-teacher husband and their adventurous 6-year-old.

Kylie Ortity, Development Operations Manager

Kylie joins Breakthrough Collaborative with decades of personal and professional experience in the nonprofit sector. She is passionate about donor data, fundraising, and education. As a young teen, Kylie organized many fundraisers for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, where her love for nonprofits began. Prior to coming on board with Breakthrough Collaborative, she acted as the Assistant Director of Donor Relations for the University of Central Florida, helping donors feel more connected to the University. Kylie achieved her master’s degree in Nonprofit Management from the University of Central Florida and a bachelor’s in English from the Mansfield University of Pennsylvania — where she was born and raised. Kylie enjoys collecting shark teeth on the beaches of Florida while soaking up the sun with her two dogs, Daphne and Lily, and her rabbit Willow.

Tori Perrakis, Salesforce Administrator

Tori comes to Breakthrough with a decade of experience in the world of youth-focused nonprofits. She is passionate about clean and accurate data, programs that serve young people, and, most importantly, the intersection between the two. Prior to Breakthrough, she spent four years as a Program Manager at Just-a-Start YouthBuild in Cambridge, Massachusetts where she split her time between direct service and data management/reporting. She has her BA in Child Development and Peace and Justice Studies from Tufts University, and her M.Ed. in Prevention Science and Practice from Harvard Graduate School of Education. Tori lives in Gloucester, Massachusetts, where she enjoys hiking, visiting the local beaches, and seeking out the perfect cup of coffee.

Kyla Phillips, Talent Manager

Kyla comes to Breakthrough with a decade of experience in various nonprofits ranging from direct service to capacity-building organizations. She is passionate about people, equity, and creating spaces where communities are seen, heard, and valued. Prior to Breakthrough, she spent nearly four years as the Senior Manager of Consulting at the Center for Nonprofit Management in Nashville, Tennessee where she oversaw the day-to-day operations of their consulting department, provided executive search support to the lead consultant, and provided oversight for the DEI programmatic strategy. She has her BA in Economics from Western Kentucky University and her M.S in Nonprofit Management and Leadership from Walden University. Kyla lives in Nashville, Tennessee, where she enjoys exploring new greenways with her dog, traveling, and identifying new hobbies and creative projects.

Katie Post, National Director of Philanthropy

Katie brings over 18 years of experience in education and fundraising to Breakthrough’s National office, including the last five and half years where she served as the Director of Development at Breakthrough Atlanta. Prior to Breakthrough Atlanta, Katie served as the founding Executive Director of the Office of Partnerships and Development for Atlanta Public Schools. In this role, Katie built the office and team and served as the key liaison between the district and partners including non-profits, corporations, foundations, community, and government agencies raising over $20M annually. Prior to joining APS, Katie served for ten years as the co-founder and Executive Director of the Atlanta Families’ Awards for Excellence in Education, a nonprofit focused on teacher and school-leader quality in Metro Atlanta. Previously, Katie also worked at McKinsey & Company in New York City as a communications specialist where she collaborated on The War for Talent published by the Harvard Business School Press. 

Katie holds a B.A. in English from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and is the proud mom/step-mom to five children with her husband. 

Jenny Song, Manager of Research & Evaluation

Jenny joins the National team with an aspiration for equitable education. She developed a passion for education through her experiences as a teaching fellow at Breakthrough New York and then joined Teach For America to expand her equity lens. Jenny spent the past four years teaching at two Title I schools in San Jose, California where she impacted student growth through data-driven and culturally relevant practices. She also has a range of research experiences in higher education, notably specializing in race, religion, and child discipline. Jenny has a Bachelor of Arts in psychology and an elementary teaching credential from Pepperdine University, and a Masters of Science in education from Johns Hopkins University. Outside of work, she enjoys painting and taking care of her many plants.

Meredith Zackey, Senior Director of Program Success

Meredith is an experienced educational equity professional with over a decade of experience in the field, and knowing that her work makes a difference in the lives of others is the daily motivation that drives her. She began her career as an AmeriCorps member with City Year Greater Philadelphia and went on to work at Breakthrough affiliates in Philadelphia and Manchester, New Hampshire. She has previously worked as a Dean of Students, Program Assistant, Dean of Faculty, and Program Director at Breakthrough affiliates. She also worked at DC Public Schools on their Principal Effectiveness Team. She holds an M.P.P in public policy from Georgetown University and a B.A. in comparative literature from Haverford College and currently resides in Philadelphia. Outside of the office, she enjoys baking, spending time with her sisters and her young nephew, reading, and playing with her two cats, Twix and Pixie.


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