Mission: Founded in 1992 by MacArthur Genius Awardee Dr. Angela Duckworth, Breakthrough Greater Boston is a unique organization with a dual mission to prepare low-income students for success in college and train college students to become the next generation of urban teachers. Through our unique Students Teaching Students model, students gain a passion for learning and the perseverance and tools to succeed in college and beyond, while Teaching Fellows gain intensive in-classroom experience, expert training and 1:1 coaching. Since our founding, Breakthrough has provided opportunities in Cambridge, Boston and Somerville for over 2,500 students and teachers. Over the past eight years, 97% of our graduating seniors have been admitted to college and 82% are persisting, putting Breakthrough students on a track to far exceed the national college graduation rate.
How does your organization strive toward the attributes associated with Relevance?
- Breakthrough engages meaningfully with the students and families we serve through: six years of summer and afterschool academic, college readiness and career prep programming; relationship building; family events; and student advocacy.
- We build a strong understanding of the educational ecosystem we inhabit by being located directly within the public schools and by soliciting feedback from our Board’s School Partnership Committee. Consisting of leaders from each of the school and district partners we serve, the School Partnership Committee informs our work meeting the needs of students.
Breakthrough partners closely with important stakeholders including:
- families, who we engage in at least seven in-person touchpoints per year and through a Family Advisory Committee;
- 7th and 8th grade teaching teams in the schools we serve, which inform our curriculum design; and
- school principals, superintendents and district curriculum coordinators.
- Breakthrough uses research on gaps in opportunity, college access, persistence through college, and access to out-of-school time programs to articulate the importance of our work. We also conduct internal research to determine how best to serve our students through interviews, surveys and our evaluation of the services offered in students’ schools.
- Based on this research, we understand that there exists a real opportunity to effect change in educational equity through out-of-school time learning programming for the low-income students of color that we serve.
How does your organization strive toward the attributes associated with Impact?
- When our team presents to students in sixth grade with the hope that they will apply to become Breakthrough students, we define their future success very clearly and persuasively: “stick with us for six years, and you will go to college.”
- We measure student academic and social-emotional gains during the program, student grades, student progress on the college application process, and student financial aid awards, all working towards the goal of preparing students for college.
- Our program design is informed by research, past evaluation data, conversations with students and alumni, conversations with the school partners and districts we serve, and student and family surveys.
We know our programs are yielding results:
- students make an average of two months’ academic growth over the summer as opposed to the two months’ regression experienced on average by students without academic programming,
- 97% of our students have matriculated to college over the last eight years, and
- 82% of our students persist in college, far exceeding the national average of 14% for low-income students.
- Our organization undergoes regular cycles of evaluation and feedback, producing a 50+ page evaluation report each year that is used to inform further program enhancements.
How does your organization strive toward the attributes associated with Sustainability?
- In preparation for our expansion into a third city, we completed extensive analysis and planning, which included the development of a six-year financial model and thorough research of the schools and community.
- As an organization committed to educational equity, we have aligned our business model by providing programming free of charge and soliciting funding from private and government sources.
- We have developed relationships with funders who share our goals and we are adept at communicating our unique program’s impact. Our funders support us beyond dollars by hosting career days, visiting our program, and providing volunteers.
- Breakthrough maintains a diverse revenue stream raising funds from foundation and corporate grants (57%), Individuals (30%) and Government grants (13%).
With an annual budget of approximately $2.5M, Breakthrough obtains significant in-kind donations and delivers a unique Students Teaching Students model to ensure that resources are used efficiently. Our efficient model ensures that funders achieve the highest possible impact by investing in Breakthrough.
EXCELLENCE IN MANAGEMENT AND OPERATIONS
How does your organization strive toward the attributes associated with Excellence in Management and Operations?
- Equity and Opportunity is one of our core values, and we have put in place practices that promote diversity, inclusion, equity and community representation. Those practices include: reviewing policies and procedures to ensure they are inclusive, prioritizing recruitment of board members of color, working to attract a diverse pool of candidates for our staff positions, engaging staff in a diversity retreat each year, training our teachers through a two-day DEI training, featuring diverse perspectives in student curriculum, and cultivating meaningful relationships with parents.
- Our Executive Director, staff and Board of Directors are publicly listed on our website and have been thoughtfully vetted and selected based on their skills, qualifications, and ability to contribute to the Breakthrough community.
- Each volunteer completes an interview, background check, training and supervision by full-time staff. Volunteers attend our appreciation events and receive appreciation gifts.
- We produce professional marketing and communication materials overseen by our Director of Development and Partnerships, who has ten years of communications experience, supported by a contract graphic designer.
- We engage thoughtfully with pro bono legal services from Wilmer Hale, work with Eastern Benefits to provide HR services and benefits, and contract with external IT providers. Our facilities are professionally managed by our school partners.
- One of our core values is Continual Learning, and we undergo regular cycles of evaluation and improvement. One such cycle of improvement was completed in partnership with Cambridge Design Lab to use Design Thinking to improve our After School Program, which engaged our staff in learning and systems thinking.
HOW DOES YOUR ORGANIZATION ENGAGE YOUNG PROFESSIONALS / EMERGING LEADERS?
Breakthrough engages young professionals through our Associate Board, our Teaching Fellowship, and numerous volunteer opportunities. Our Teaching Fellowship engages college-aged aspiring teachers to shoulder the responsibilities of full-time teachers during our Middle School Summer and After School Programs. Our volunteers mentor students one on one as Academic Mentors and College Access Coaches. The Associate Board has three main goals: to raise awareness, to attract new supporters to Breakthrough, and to recruit volunteers. The Associate Board achieves these goals by hosting events geared towards young professional engagement including trivia nights, an annual young professional’s Bash, and ongoing special events throughout the year to raise awareness about Breakthrough’s mission and successes.
The growing Associate Board is currently comprised of 15 members from a variety of backgrounds, all dedicated to shaping and supporting a highly successful organization by contributing individual skills and assets. Associate Board members have the opportunity to connect with other professionals and organizations in the community, support the academic achievement and college access of motivated middle and high school students, provide unique opportunities for young people to explore teaching as a profession, and contribute their individual skills, strengths, and creative thinking to further the impact of Breakthrough Greater Boston.
Within the Associate Board, we provide leadership opportunities through our Associate Board chair position and through the chair positions on each of our four Associate Board committees: Events, Special Projects, Corporate Sponsorships and In-Kind Donations, and Marketing and Volunteering. Associate Board members also demonstrate leadership by encouraging colleagues at work to attend events and volunteer, and through acting as vital connectors for Breakthrough as we expand and diversify our funding streams.