At Breakthrough Silicon Valley (BSV), the learning never stops – nor does the fun! Read on about our summer program’s mix of rigorous academics and engaging activities, the wonderful support we’ve been receiving from local funders, our students’ high school and college plans and, last but not least, a students-eye view of a central part of each day in the summer: the All School Meeting.
Onwards and Upwards
As the summer closes, BSV sends good luck wishes to the students heading off to high school and college. Part of Breakthrough’s mission is to prepare motivated middle school students for success in academically rigorous high school programs that will lead them to college. BSV has a great track record in meeting this goal – and 2010 is no different!
We’re delighted to report that, this Fall, 30 Breakthrough graduates will be taking college preparatory courses at Bellarmine College Preparatory, KIPP San Jose Collegiate, Leland High School, Downtown College Preparatory, Lincoln High School, Pioneer High School, Gunderson High School, and San Jose High. These hard-working students are on the path to a college education.
Adriana, a rising 9th grader, is ready to tackle the challenges awaiting her at Pioneer High School. “I feel better prepared for high school because of being in Breakthrough,” she reports. “Breakthrough has helped me with presenting ideas, presenting myself, and having more confidence. I used to be a shy girl and now I’m used to public speaking.” Adriana already has her heart set on which colleges she wants to attend: “I’d like to go to UCLA or maybe NYU, and train as a pediatrician,” she says. “It’s a new ambition for me. I like science and Breakthrough has helped me with the math I need.”
In a few short years, Adriana and her peers will join Breakthrough alumni at some of the premier colleges in the US. Ninety-two percent of Breakthrough’s student alumni are attending college, split fairly evenly between four-year and two-year institutions. BSV alumni can be found at Cornell University, Ohio Wesleyan, Macalester College, UC Riverside and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Closer to home, former Breakthrough students are studying at De Anza Community College, San Jose State, Santa Clara University, UC Santa Cruz, and UC Berkeley.
Our goal is to prepare every student for a four-year college. In 2010, BSV began a pilot college readiness program for its high school students to increase the percentage attending four-year colleges. We’ll report back on that initiative in a future newsletter. In the meantime, let’s celebrate the accomplishments of Breakthrough’s students as they begin the next stage in their journey to a bright future!
Investing in Our Future
Breakthrough has been awarded grants by several local foundations and corporations to continue our work with high-potential, low-income students in San Jose.
Mark Walker, Managing Director for Global Community Affairs of the Applied Materials Foundation, first visited Breakthrough during the summer of 2009. He was immediately impressed by “the energy and enthusiasm of the college students leading the class sessions. I was also impressed by the broad geographic range of the teachers – they came from all across the US.”
BSV was founded in 2002 as a partnership between the Breakthrough Collaborative, the San Jose Unified School District, and the Applied Materials Foundation. It’s a key part of Applied’s strategy to deliver comprehensive and lasting change within San Jose’s education system, from pre-school to high school and college preparation. The Applied Materials Foundation works with a number of elementary schools in San Jose to help them raise their students’ proficiency in math and language arts. Students at those schools go on to attend middle schools that Breakthrough recruits from. Applied sees this continuity as critical to success: “In middle school, the focus has to be on building on the elementary school experience, particularly keeping students on task and motivated,” Walker says. “We have to give kids aspirations, especially career aspirations. Breakthrough is a good fit for us. Its program offers academic challenge, great role models, and encouragement to young teachers. It reinforces all the other work we are supporting in San Jose’s schools.” The Applied Materials Education Initiative is intended to bring about systemic change where it is needed most.
Systemic change is also at the heart of the Silicon Valley Out-of-School-Time Collaborative recently introduced by The Silicon Valley Venture Fund (SV2), The Sand Hill Foundation, and The David & Lucile Packard Foundation. This three-year initiative will support a cohort of nine organizations to develop and strengthen pathways for Silicon Valley middle and high school students from low-income families to improve their likelihood of graduating from high school and attending college. BSV is one of the lucky recipients of this three-year funding!
Lindsay Louie, SV2’s Executive Director, explains, “We selected Breakthrough Silicon Valley because of its proven model for achieving these goals. Representatives from each of the funders visited Breakthrough as part of our due diligence process and were impressed with everyone we met – from board members, to the ED and staff, to students in the program.” Participation in the Out-of-School-Time initiative will help BSV develop its organizational capacity and position the program for future growth, both in San Jose and the Peninsula.
Serving the children of the Peninsula is dear to the hearts of our friends at the Intero Foundation. Cathy Jackson, secretary of the Intero Foundation, explained that it is a true grass roots effort. All the funds come from the realtors in Intero’s network to support outstanding local non-profits.
When Cathy and her colleague, Julie Wyss, visited Breakthrough they met with students who talked about what Breakthrough meant to them. ”One young girl said that she couldn’t see a way to make a good future for herself until she became part of Breakthrough,” said Cathy. “Breakthrough had shown her that she could go to college and that it would support her in being all she could be.” As one of the people involved in setting up the Intero Foundation, Cathy knows how to assess the viability of other organizations. She liked what she saw at Breakthrough: “Tania, the executive director, was able to articulate the program’s goals in a very clear and concise way. The people who run Breakthrough know what they want to achieve, and that’s very important for building an effective organization.”
Presenting Breakthrough with a handsome check at this summer’s Visitors’ Day, Cathy Jackson spoke for her fellow Intero realtors when she said “We’re so happy to support the children in our community to become the productive, successful adults of the future.”
The NVIDIA Foundation also emphasizes education and human services. Its grant-making process is unique, with employees recommending and championing organizations through several stages of assessment. In the end, all of NVIDIA’s employees are invited to vote on potential grant recipients. This year, Breakthrough Silicon Valley was one of 63 organizations from across the world to be assessed before becoming a lucky finalist. Breakthrough’s multi-year approach and careful tracking of its students helped it stand out from the pack. Speaking on behalf of the NVIDIA Foundation, Tonie Hansen also commended Breakthrough “for starting its work with the students at such a young age. It is obvious that the program provides vital social interaction that the kids may not be getting at home. It’s placing them with trusted adults who can be role models. The kids are seeing that someone outside their family cares.”
We are tremendously grateful to these wonderful supporters for showing so much confidence in our work. The kindness of our new philanthropic partners will help us reach more students and put more young people onto the path to college.
Our Program: Summer Session 2010
Literature, Lab Reports…and Laughter!
On July 31st, students, teachers, parents and Breakthrough supporters celebrated the successful conclusion of this year’s summer program at Hillbrook School. Almost 100 middle-schoolers were taught by 26 teachers from institutions as far away as the University of Pennsylvania and as close as Stanford. Students chose from 25 elective courses and took classes that ranged from US History to Mock Trial, and Poetry to Public Speaking – in addition to mandatory core courses in math, literature, and science.
The elective courses are created by the teachers each summer, drawing on their personal skills and interests. Trung Nguyen, a junior at UCLA and a native of Vietnam, taught French and French Culture. By the end of the summer, his students were testing the knowledge they acquired, and their presentation skills by teaching simple conversations to other teachers and students.
Jennifer, in her first summer at Breakthrough, took Mock Trial, Sports in Literature, and Paper Arts, in addition to her core classes. She enjoyed reading about the way different sports are presented in fiction, but her particular favorite turned out to be Mock Trial. “First we worked on a skit for practice,” she explained, “and then we put on a mock trial in front of the other students. I was the defendant’s attorney. It was fun, but I’m not sure I want to be an attorney when I grow up. But Breakthrough might help me decide!”
During the summer, Breakthrough helped students consider a variety of careers by giving them opportunities to interact with Silicon Valley professionals and companies. On July 7th, the girls in the program attended a special luncheon with 25 women working in science, engineering and technology. Our guests represented a wide range of Silicon Valley employers, including Google, HP, Fujitsu, Oracle, Cisco, NASA-Ames, the US Geological Survey, and a number of local startups. We were also joined by professors from San Francisco State, Cal State University-East Bay and Stanford. The day was a unique chance for the girls to hear about what it’s really like to be a woman working in science.
The following week, Breakthrough hosted its annual Career Speakers Day. Sixteen speakers talked with small groups of students about their work and lives. Fernando, a 7th grader, was lucky enough to chat with Bill Kindricks about being a professional football player! Two days later, the students left campus to travel to a variety of companies. Jennifer visited Google, where she met with one of the company lawyers, ate lunch in the dining hall, and learned how to create an ad for Google. Kevin, an 8th grader, went to Yahoo! where his group met engineers and toured the server room. Over lunch, Kevin and his classmates were paired up with a Yahoo! staff member, so they could have a smaller conversation. Kevin said, “It boosted my ideas about engineering. The speaker gave me more of an idea of what engineering is and what I could do.” For many of the students, it was the first time they had set foot in a high tech working environment.
Ask a Breakthrough student if there is any downside to the summer program and they’ll almost unanimously say, “The homework!” But one thing they all comment on is the support provided by their teachers. Kevin said, “Sometimes it’s hard, really tough. I spend a lot of time on it but, if I don’t get it, I can email the teacher. They give you their email addresses because they want you to ask for help if you don’t understand. It’s really good.”
The summer wasn’t all homework though. Students took field trips to San Francisco and Stanford University; enjoyed afternoons at the pool; and participated in skits, games, and arts and crafts. One highlight of the summer was the Olympics, where students split up into “crews” to battle for honors. It’s competitive, but it’s always fun. Kevin said it was the most memorable day of the whole summer for him, even though his crew didn’t win. “It makes us united. We have our cheers and our songs. It doesn’t matter if you win or lose. It’s all about the unity. It was a blast!”
Summer at Breakthrough is designed to make learning engaging and fun but, more than that, it prepares kids for the coming school year. Tania Wilcox, BSV’s executive director, commented: “We know from research that there’s a lot of learning loss over the ten or twelve weeks of the summer. Breakthrough makes sure the kids don’t have any of that summer learning loss. We also accelerate them in their academic skills. What makes us special is that all the teaching is done by high school and college students. These young teachers can engage the students at an intellectual level in a way that is quite different to what we expect from other teachers.”
Students agreed with Tania’s observation. Kelly, a rising 9th grader heading to Gunderson High School said “The teachers here are really amazing. They know how to make a connection with you, and once you have that connection it’s easier to learn from them.” Jennifer added: “It’s awesome having younger teachers!”
by Jordan Aspiras, 8th grader
“ALL!!— SCHOOL!!! —MEETING!!!!” students yell enthusiastically every morning at the start of this spirited twenty minute school meeting. All School Meeting (ASM) is a time when students gather to listen to school announcements and watch crews perform skits. From Mundial Mondays to Fun Fridays, each day of the week at ASM has a theme, and is an opportunity to practice presentation skills, build public speaking confidence, showcase talents, and build vocabulary.
Mundial Mondays are days about different cultures. Monday skits typically involve crews acting out various adventures in new and far off locations around the world. Talent Tuesdays are an opportunity for students and teachers perform their talent in front of an audience. From singing to dancing, students perform a variety of talents each Tuesday.
Word Wednesdays are days where a word that we don’t know is used in a skit. “This Thursday” is the day where skits about current news events are performed. For example, crews performing on “This is Thursday” typically design skits with weather segments and feature news anchors who deliver segments of the news. Finally, the last ASM of the week is known as Fun Friday. Fridays are days in which crews plan many fun activities such as brain-teasers.
ASM gets everyone excited for the rest of the day. “The purpose of ASM is to gather the Breakthrough family and share many great moments together, whether it’s a Talent Tuesday or crew skits,” Denisse Oceguera, a rising eighth grader, said.
Jordan Aspiras spent part of her summer learning about journalism from her teacher, Audrey Frey, a sophomore at UC Berkeley. We’re delighted to share her work with you.