Mission & History


At Breakthrough, we believe all young people should have access to an excellent education, a clear pathway to college, and highly effective teachers committed to their success. In pursuit of this vision, we provide intensive, year-round academic enrichment and support to motivated fifth – twelfth graders with limited educational opportunities, as well as persistence support for our college students. In addition, we train outstanding college students from across the country for education careers: developing their instructional skills, building their knowledge of pathways to teaching, and inspiring them to work in the field.

We are an initiative of SF Day School, a K-8 independent school that values academic excellence for all students, whether in public or private schools. We are one of 25 national affiliates of the Oakland-based organization Breakthrough Collaborative.


Breakthrough began as Summerbridge, a college access program founded in 1978 at San Francisco’s University High School. The SF Day site was born when a steering committee comprised of parents, administrators, and Trustees explored options for broadening the school’s impact. Day School Summerbridge launched in 1993, under Founding Director Al Gonzales and then Head of School Jim Telander. SF Day has preserved and deepened its commitment in the two and a half decades since.

In 2008 we changed our name to Breakthrough San Francisco at SF Day School, to reflect the year-round nature of our program and capture the impact we strive for. 2011 marked another milestone, when we launched an expansion. Originally a program for fifth and sixth graders, we grew to support our students through high school graduation and beyond. In 2018, the first class of students graduated from our new eight-year program. To date, 96% of our graduates have enrolled in college, including 89% at four-year schools.

We are proud to have celebrated our 30th anniversary in 2023, and strive to hold onto the most important aspects of our past while adapting to what the future holds.