Sunday, June 16, 2024

Teachers and students in the Breakthrough Greater Boston program cheer at its Summer Kick Off night early this month. (Photo: Breakthrough Greater Boston)

Although Breakthrough Greater Boston is in the midst of its 20th consecutive summer program, this is probably its busiest. The education program is working on its expansion from Cambridge into Boston and looking for its founding Boston site director to begin work in the fall, all while doing its usual work: running classes for more than 100 seventh- to ninth-grade students with 40 top-notch college students from across the country.

“This is an especially exciting time,” said Elissa Spelman, executive director of the Fletcher Maynard Academy-based program. “Our newest class of rising seventh-graders is about to begin a six-year journey to college with us, while promising undergraduates immerse themselves in arguably the most important profession — education. We are excited to offer these very same life-changing opportunities to a second community in Boston and look forward to the year ahead.”

The idea behind Breakthrough stems from research showing that out-of-school-time programs such as those offered by the program are critical to closing the achievement gap. In Cambridge, every senior enrolled in Breakthrough Cambridge over the past four years has matriculated to four-year colleges, and 96 percent are still in college, Spelman said. This fall that includes Boston, Bucknell and Lehigh universities and Vassar and Wellesley colleges.

This is in stark contrast to national statistics Spelman provides showing that only 60 percent of America’s low-income youth can expect to graduate from high school; 33 percent can expect to enroll in college; and 14 percent earn bachelor’s degrees.

On the other side of the equation, or Breakthrough’s “students teaching students” model, 80 percent of teachers trained through its programs and who graduated in 2010 and last year are teaching in urban school systems, she said.

Breakthrough’s Summer Program, which started July 2, runs through Aug. 9 and adds more than 250 additional hours of learning to the regular school year.

While the program ended the school year with a successful $300,000 fundraiser, its Campaign for Advancement is intended to raise $3.8 million over the next three years, with its website suggesting funding levels of $50 to $5,000. The lowest suggested level pays for one student’s summer school supplies, while the highest sponsors a classroom.

Across the river, TechBoston Academy in Dorchester has been selected as the first partner school for Breakthrough Boston, Spelman said. The school, which serves grades six through 12, has been offering no after-school or summer academic programming and serves a high-need population — 95 percent of students are of color; 86 percent are low-income; and 36 percent are English language learners.

Mary Skipper, head of the academy, said she was eager to introduce Breakthrough’s “positive, transformative influence” to the school.

This post took significant amounts of material from a press release.