Breakthrough helps students stay ahead

Johnneca was encouraged by her teachers to apply to Breakthrough Cincinnati's intensive summer program. Hesitant to give up six weeks of her summers for the next four years, she made the leap and was immediately hooked. Always the smart kid in class, she never did more than was necessary to get by in school.  After beginning at Breakthrough, Johnneca's outlook changed.

"Being around Breakthrough really brought out this other side of her," says Meghan Morgan, executive director of Breakthrough. "She is now in her second year as an education major at UC. She has also been a teacher in our summer program for the past two years and tutors throughout the school year."

Johnneca personifies Breakthrough Cincinnati's goal to motivate and train talented youth in under-served schools. Started as a summer program, five years ago Breakthrough switched to a year-round educational enrichment program that has seen a 100 percent high school graduation rate and 87 percent matriculation rate of students enrolled in the program.

While there are myriad remedial programs geared to students who have fallen behind, very few work to help keep students who have performed well in school, stay ahead. With an intense application process that begins in fifth grade, Breakthrough students must commit to four years of summer school, complete with parent-teacher conferences, final exams and hours of homework each week. The program is difficult, but Morgan attributes the program's success to peer-to-peer learning.

"Our middle school students are positively impacted by these high school and college students who devote their time and energy to becoming teachers," Morgan says. "The student teachers then get excited about working with kids and making a difference and end up pursing education in some way."

Do Good:

Donate. Breakthrough Cincinnati runs its tuition-free program by raising its own funds.

Apply. Fifth graders can enroll in December for the next year's summer program.

Teach. Breakthrough Cincinnati is recruiting teachers and tutors to work with middle school students on Saturday mornings.

By Evan Wallis

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