June Nonprofit Spotlight
Breakthrough of Greater Philadelphia

Breakthrough of Greater Philadelphia has been selected for June’s Nonprofit Spotlight!

Who They Are:

Striving to reach educational equity and diversity—this is the mission at Breakthrough of Greater Philadelphia. They fulfill this mission in two ways. First, through academic and co-curricular enrichment, Breakthrough prepares students who have limited educational opportunities to attend and succeed at competitive, top choice high schools, and inspire a lifelong love of learning and openness to possibility.

Second, Breakthrough develops future teachers by providing professional, hands-on teaching experiences to college students to build the next generation of diverse, talented educators. Such pre-professional development experiences often spark an interest in and commitment to working in the field of education, and a majority of Breakthrough Teaching Fellows pursue careers in this sector.

Their program focuses on the early middle school years, where foundational learning for high school success is critically important. Once accepted to Breakthrough, Scholars participate in a multi-year program from the summer before sixth grade through the summer before ninth grade at no cost. For six full weeks during the summer, and on most Saturdays during the school year, Scholars receive rigorous academic and co-curricular enrichment, life skills, mentorship, career inspiration, and support in the high school application process.

Their Teaching Fellows participate in a nine-week, immersive classroom experience, where they learn best practices to engage, inspire, and challenge their students across four core content areas and beyond. They practice lesson design, implementation, restorative classroom management strategies, and engage in weekly observations and reflections to grow as pedagogues.

When Breakthrough brings middle school Scholars and college Teaching Fellows together, the learning environment transforms. Scholars often remark that their Teaching Fellows leave a lasting impression on them, serve as near-peer role models, and make academic lessons interesting and impactful. Teaching Fellows often share similar sentiments as they reflect on this unique opportunity to become lead teachers in a classroom, work closely and collaboratively with students and peers, and consider their careers in education.

What kind of support does Breakthrough need the most right now?

In 2023, they are excited to serve over 200 students at their sole location at Germantown Friends School. Aside from running the program, their staff is currently strategizing and implementing new approaches to increase their impact and continually improve student outcomes.

What Breakthrough needs most is financial support. Enrolling 200 students in their tuition-free program and paying Teaching Fellow stipends requires an annual operating budget of approximately $900,000. As they consider expanding and enhancing their impact, they need to raise incremental funds from both new and current sources with a focus on multi-year, sustainable commitments via government grants, foundations, corporate partners, major gifts, and Pennsylvania DCED’s Educational Improvement Tax Credit Program (EITC).

What is one thing you wish people knew about Breakthrough that they may not?

One of Breakthrough’s major points of difference relative to similar programs in Philadelphia is their students-teaching-students model. This “magic of Breakthrough,” as they call it, comes to life when middle school Scholars meet their lead teachers for the first time and realize their teachers are college students who not only look like them, but also have unique energy, passion, dedication, and care when teaching Breakthrough Scholars. The college students are known as Teaching Fellows, and with Breakthrough serving as their internship, Teaching Fellows receive daily professional development, continuous observations, and feedback from experienced teachers at GFS and the Philadelphia School District.

Bringing these two special groups of students together is truly magical. The community cheers (e.g., “Spirit CHECK!”), the mentorship, the excitement… it all comes together when you see the program in action. Breakthrough is a place where it’s cool to learn and it’s cool to be smart. They strive to inspire lifelong learners and want their students to reach for success in their educational and professional careers, and their unique model certainly inspires this.

What is the most unique donation that Breakthrough has received?

Last football season, a generous donor sold her Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants season tickets (some at the 50-yard line) and donated the proceeds to Breakthrough of Greater Philadelphia. Thanks to strong performances from both teams, the proceeds from the ticket sales generated enough revenue to send 6 Scholars to their tuition-free program for a full year. They are hopeful she will do the same for Breakthrough again this year. Let’s hope both teams continue to play well this season!

For more information, please visit their website: breakthroughphilly.org