This summer I had the opportunity of working for Breakthrough in Sacramento, CA. Breakthrough Collaborative is a national organization that provides academic support for high achieving students from under-resourced schools. Breakthrough offers school year tutoring and a rigorous summer school program. With these opportunities, education can be made more equitable as our students are emboldened to realize their success. This summer program is important for our students because they are spending vacations keeping their brains active and avoiding the summer slump. I taught for Breakthrough last summer in New York City and I felt a strong call to work for them again. Our faculty of 15 teaching fellows became a family dedicated to the common goal of challenging students academically in an environment that also made learning fun. In addition to academics, we had water balloon fights, club competitions, constant cheers and the teachers were all pied in the face. My passions are rooted in learning and I believe everyone has the capability to develop an educated mind. I am a rising third year at Whitman and I am planning to receive a major in biology with a minor in religious studies. This summer, I was surrounded by people with a goal: to learn about the world and grow as individuals. This crazy community of nerds made me feel at home.
On a typical day at Breakthrough Sacramento (BSAC), I would arrive at 7am to make copies, set up my classroom and finish up my preparations for the day’s lesson. When our students arrived at 8am, the teachers would create a tunnel at the gate and repeat a “good morning” cheer until every exhausted student exited the buses. Students then went to their academic classes: writing, literature, math and science. I taught two periods of science to rising 9th graders. We learned about renewable energy and climate change, robotics and we dissected dogfish sharks. After lunch, I taught an elective class called Tea Across the Globe in which we studied different tea ceremonies and the importance of tea in many cultures. Another of our afternoon classes was Bridgetime, where students learned about the college application process and financial aid. This material is especially valuable since 94% of our students will be the first in their families to go to college. Sometimes the world of higher education speaks a secret language with mysterious words such as FAFSA and Common App. Breakthrough’s Bridgetime curriculum can begin to demystify those secrets and establish clear steps for our students to take in order to reach their goal of college.
I chose this internship because I agree strongly with Breakthrough’s mission to make education more equitable. Over my two summers working for Breakthrough, I gained valuable experience in the classroom. I learned how to write dynamic lesson plans, deliver information clearly, manage my classroom and construct a curriculum. With only a few weeks of training, I was thrown into the deep end and learned how to succeed outside my comfort zone. One of my responsibilities this summer was constructing a week long robotics curriculum including lesson plans, activities, homework and a final project. Although this process was tedious and complicated, my students were able to build codes that included complex movement, beeps and flashing lights and I celebrated their successes alongside them.
However, even with all this in mind, why would anyone want to spend their summer at school? To answer this question, I reflect on a beautiful change I witnessed in Laronzick, a rising 9th grader. While reading the play Othello, he complained constantly about the Old English saying “I just don’t get Shakespeare.” Then last week, Laronzick ran up to me at lunch with a big smile, his grill glistening in the sunshine. He triumphed, “Aubrey, Aubrey! The play is so cool, everyone dies, it was so insane!” Breakthrough fosters changes like this every summer across the nation, encouraging students to find their own academic passion and providing them with the opportunity to actualize their success. Breakthrough matters and it was my honor to teach these incredible students.
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Experiences like Aubrey’s are made possible by the Whitman Internship Grant, which provides funding for students to participate in unpaid internships at both for-profit and non-profit organizations. To learn how you could secure a Whitman Internship Grant or host a Whitman intern at your organization, click here or contact Assistant Director for Internship Programs Victoria Wolff