Yonatan remembers the moment he knew Breakthrough would be a good fit. A Breakthrough staff member was presenting to his fourth grade class at Rosa Parks Elementary School in the Fillmore and asked what colleges the students had heard of. Yonatan’s hand shot up. 

That’s when I knew Breakthrough would be a great place for me,” he reflects. “I’ve always known I wanted to go to college. My parents have always instilled that within me, and it’s something that I wanted for myself.”

That first summer, and in the years that followed, he learned important skills he uses to this day, like annotating a text. Even more importantly, he fell in love with academics, solving complex word problems in math and reading engaging books like Breaking Through. “The teachers love what they do and they put passion into their teaching. Everyone in the community is caring and everyone wants to be here,” Yonatan said. “There’s no place I’d rather be during the summer.”

The special events also made an impression on him, like College Day, a chance to learn about all aspects of the college experience, Career Day, when he visited a downtown workplace – “it plants a seed in your head – like I want to get here one day” – and Celebration, the culminating event of each summer. Interacting with the VLPs, high school students who volunteer their time each summer, also left an impression on him, and a deeper understanding of what responsibilities he would be taking on as he got older. Above all, the summer program solidified his sense that college was in his future – “if I put in the work, it’s possible.”

As a high school student at St. Ignatius, Yonatan served as a VLP himself, and attended Breakthrough’s monthly workshops focused on high school success and college admissions. Today, he’s a junior at St. Olaf College outside the Twin Cities. As a Posse scholar, Yonatan not only has his tuition covered, but also benefits from personal support, leadership development, and career exploration. He’s approaching college with a growth mindset. “Coming to Minnesota was a really big change. It’s completely different from California, whether it’s the cultural atmosphere in the Midwest or even the weather – here you have to battle with -20 degrees in the winter. But everything’s going to help me grow.”

Yonatan decided on a computer science major, with the goal of becoming a software engineer after graduation. After launching his own career, he plans to extend a hand back. “In the long term, I would like to help people who look like me break into tech roles, because I know how much of a struggle it can be. Being able to help others get where I want to get to would be an honor.”