What We Do

We support San Francisco students on the path to college.

Breakthrough provides intensive academic enrichment and support to motivated San Francisco students with limited educational opportunities. In 2022-23, we’re serving 233 5 -12th grade students; 90% will be the first in their families to attend a four-year college, and 88% are eligible for free- or reduced-price lunch. We’re also opt-in providing persistence support to another 92 current college students.

Students apply to Breakthrough as fourth graders at public elementary schools in San Francisco. Our selection criteria are motivation and need: we seek students who want to attend college but are historically underrepresented there. 

For four years, during the summers prior to 5-8th grade, students attend our intensive six-week summer program. Each day, they take four hours of challenging classes in math, science, literature, and writing, and complete one to two hours of homework nightly. They also work on study skills, attend elective classes, participate in engaging leadership development opportunities like outdoor education and Career Day, and join a supportive community of learners. During their 5-8th grade school years, students attend our after-school program twice weekly, receiving personalized tutoring and taking enrichment classes. We also assist all students with the middle and high school admissions processes.

During their 9-12th grade years, students attend monthly Saturday workshops on the college application process, career exploration, diversity and inclusion, and effective decision making, among other topics. In addition, they take part in ACT prep classes, college campus visits, and college admissions counseling.

In 2018, the first class of students graduated from our new eight-year program, and four more classes have now followed. Results thus far have been strong: 100% of our graduates are attending college, including 90% at four-year schools.

We train outstanding college students for education careers.

Breakthrough also operates a highly selective summer teaching residency for outstanding college students. Teaching Fellows are recruited from colleges and universities nationwide and pass through a rigorous admissions process. Teaching Fellows receive ten days of intensive training in June and, during the ensuing six weeks, teach two sections of a particular academic course – math, science, literature, or writing. They are observed daily by Instructional Coaches, experienced classroom teachers who provide ongoing feedback on their practice. Teaching Fellows also serve as advisors to a small number of students, plan special events for the entire student body, and participate in ongoing professional development and career exploration activities.

We train our Teaching Fellows to set clear objectives for each lesson; actively engage all students; hold them to the highest possible expectations; and teach with a sense of urgency. Our long-term goal is to supply highly effective teachers for the classrooms of tomorrow, including significant numbers of people of color, men, and math and science majors. 47% of Teaching Fellows who graduated from college in the past decade – since 2011 – are now working in the education sector, most as classroom teachers in urban public schools.