Celebrating 30 Years of Breakthroughs in Stories
Breakthrough Manchester – 30 Years On
Contributed by Marcus Hurlbut, The Derryfield School Headmaster 1982-1994
It is an honor to write celebrating the 30th Anniversary of Breakthrough Manchester and offering a few thoughts on its founding in 1991. Although I have been away from Derryfield since 1994, I have followed with great interest the growth and success of this extraordinary program, and am enormously proud of what Breakthrough has become today and the lives it has impacted.
Fortunate to have had the experience of attending an independent school, my experience guided my decision to enter the independent school world as a teacher and eventually Head of School. While I enjoyed my school experience and early years teaching, I became increasingly mindful of an underlying concern I hoped to address. Independent schools offer a unique and special education for students but the environment or even the basic premise is one of exclusion and in some ways, separation from the larger community. As my career progressed, I became more interested in finding ways to break down those barriers.
When I arrived at Derryfield in 1982 as a rookie “Headmaster,” I discovered a school and a city that, frankly, didn’t have much to do with each other. Derryfield students came from all over and while I appreciated that this was likely to always be the case, I wanted to explore ways to attract more students from Manchester and make a meaningful contribution to the community. My first effort was to open the DS gym for an elementary school city basketball league. My kids were then at Webster School and the league brought students and families to Derryfield from all the local public schools. It was a start.
My eyes were opened wider when I read an article in Education Week about a program for underserved, middle school-aged students at University High School in San Francisco called Summerbridge. Tuition free and focused entirely on children from low-income families, this program was designed to serve students at a critical point in their development and turn them on to education. Better still, the program used high school and college students as teachers, a concept that intrigued me from the outset as a way to demonstrate the joys of teaching to young people. I loved pretty much everything about Summerbridge and began the process of exploring ways to bring this program or something like it to Derryfield.
My first step was to connect with the director and founder of Summerbridge, Lois Loofbourrow, from whom I learned that she and some supporters in California were eager to see similar programs developed in locations across the country. I also learned that another program had recently been started at Isidore Newman School in New Orleans and there was some modest funding available for new programs. Armed with this knowledge and only a surface understanding of the true mechanics of the program, I floated the idea of starting a program past the Derryfield Board of Trustees where I encountered some well-founded skepticism but a willingness to learn more. Early in 1991, the Board gave the green light to move forward.
While I was very enthusiastic about the benefits of such a program, I also realized that enthusiasm alone wasn’t going to carry the day. Local public school teachers needed to be contacted to probe their thoughts on the merits of such a program and then, if there was interest, to talk about the kind of students we wanted to attract. I also connected with the Manchester Superintendent of Schools and the Mayor to get their thoughts and hopefully, support for a program entirely on public school students. I recall the Mayor was intrigued by the concept but the Superintendent less so. He was concerned with the motives of the program and worried it might be a lightly veiled effort to lure smart, talented students away from Manchester public schools. I also recall he was emphatically not in favor of the concept of students-teaching-students. That aside, he did give his blessing for me to connect with 6th grade teachers in Manchester schools.
From there, things moved relatively quickly. The response from teachers was overwhelmingly positive, one even saying this was the kind of program she had been waiting for her entire life. Her love for her students and her concern for their well-being was powerful. She offered compelling recollections of students who had been stars in her class only to move on to an over-crowded “junior high school” where they got totally lost in the shuffle and in some cases, eventually dropped out of school altogether. She saw Summerbridge as a potential life saver and an exceptional gift to the local community.
With the support of the Derryfield Board and some key people in the City of Manchester, we moved forward. I reconnected with Lois Loofbourrow and asked her thoughts on who would be the very best person to direct Summerbridge Manchester. Her response was immediate and unequivocal– Lynn Sorensen! But, she was quick to add our chances of convincing a native Californian to move to snowy, cold New Hampshire were slim to none. Several subsequent calls with Lynn clearly revealed these concerns but they also revealed a passion for Summerbridge and a heartfelt commitment to make a difference in the lives of students. Lynn agreed to give it a shot and arrived shortly thereafter in April 1991.
Recruiting students for that first summer was challenging and we didn’t have much time if we were going to launch the program in just a few months. Lynn and I visited all the Manchester middle schools and with the help of 6th grade teachers, met with a number of their students and talked about a program that would consume the majority of their summer, involve rigorous and demanding academic courses, plus two to three hours of homework every night, and transportation to Derryfield at the north end of Manchester. I recall well how some students quickly cooled on the idea and lost interest while a precious few moved forward in their seats, eyes wide and eager to know more.
Enrollment was small in that summer of 1991 but the program was launched and grew rapidly in subsequent years. Lynn and then Joel Vargas guided the program with great skill and inspiration and Summerbridge Manchester quickly became a model for other cities and schools to emulate. (There are now 24 Breakthrough affiliates across the country with Manchester being the third!) To this day, I still consider the launching of this wonderful program one of the great achievements of my life and I am deeply indebted to the many people at Derryfield who took a chance on both me and Summerbridge. This was a team effort generously supported by Derryfield parents and trustees, especially Jon Ross, Pauline Elkin, and Bill Glahn, who quickly became as passionate about the program as Lynn and I.
Happy 30th, Breakthrough Manchester! I’m super proud of you.
Breakthrough was meant to be!
Story of BTM Student & Teaching Fellow Alumna, Lainee Shaughnessy
“My college journey started when I was 11 and I know if it wasn’t for the continuous support, encouragement, and opportunities supplied by Breakthrough Manchester that I wouldn’t be the nurse I am today!”
A series of near misses almost cost 11-year-old Lainee Shaughnessy her chance to connect with Breakthrough Manchester (then Summerbridge) at The Derryfield School. Years later the stars aligned more clearly for her. She recently returned to Manchester as Derryfield’s school nurse and an advisor to Breakthrough students who attend Derryfield as participants in the Amoskeag Scholar Program – Lainee has come full circle!
The day Kate Erskine and Trevor Munhall visited Weston School to share the power of Breakthrough and how a commitment to this program could change the trajectory of students’ futures, Lainee was absent. However, Lainee’s guidance counselor did not let this opportunity pass by and saved an application for her. Lainee, who loves to fill out forms, launched right into the 16-page application.
Weeks later, Lainee had not received an acceptance letter and couldn’t wait any longer, she asked her mother to call Breakthrough, only to learn that her letter had been lost in the mail. Trevor assured Linda her daughter had been accepted and Lainee’s Breakthrough journey began. “School in the summer was icing on the cake” for Lainee who loved to learn!
The energy and enthusiasm of Teaching Fellows and older students nearly overwhelmed the shy, studious Lainee on her first day of Breakthrough. Before long, Lainee looked up to Teaching Fellows like Allison Fink and Lauren Bradley; by the end of the summer, she wanted to be just like them. “Breakthrough teachers, when you were a student, were the coolest! They were smart, competent, and outgoing, they advocated for themselves and they were able to foster a sense of community around them – they seemed super cool!”
Each fall Lainee connected with Breakthrough to see when she could be a Teaching Fellow. Once eligible, she volunteered as a school year teaching intern her junior and senior years at Derryfield; spent two summers teaching Biology, helping students dissect lamb hearts as she had once done; and took on the role of Operations Coordinator for two college summers. This was a perfect fit for Lainee’s organizational skills and love of Breakthrough.
Without Breakthrough, Lainee wouldn’t have gone to college and especially not to college in Seattle! After a three-week Semester at Sea program in high school, Lainee realized the world was vast, and New England was just a small piece of it. On a trip to Seattle to see relatives, Lainee discovered Seattle University, a school that felt like a good next step.
After being the first in her family to graduate from college with a BS in science and nursing, Lainee launched her career as an ER nurse. As COVID-19 spread through the Pacific Northwest, Lainee remained on the frontline of healthcare workers for months while planning the next chapter of her life.
Just as she was considering a career change and moving back to New Hampshire to spend time with family, Lainee received a call from an unknown 603 phone number. The call was from Derryfield Head of School Mary Carter, who was reaching out with a potential opportunity. Derryfield needed someone to lead the School’s health and wellness programs going forward. Lainee accepted this chance to join her former teachers and mentors as a colleague and guide the School through a global pandemic and beyond. The perpetual student, Lainee is also pursuing her Masters in Nursing Education at SNHU.
“I feel like I’m making much more of an impact at Derryfield than I was in the ER. Here I feel like the things that I’m doing have a much larger impact and that feels really, really good, almost like saving a life!
Tinyhood Founder “leaned into discomfort” to launch a thriving startup!
Susan Beaudry Blinn, Breakthrough Student and Teaching Intern Alumna
There’s a reason Susan Beaudry Blinn’s phone still has a favorite photo of herself as the student speaker at 1997’s Breakthrough Manchester (then known as Summerbridge) Celebration! (It wasn’t until she was a Teaching Intern herself that she retrospectively realized she had been chosen as the speaker because she was one of the shyest students.) The Breakthrough norm, “lean into discomfort” is what put Susan on her path to college, computer science engineering, and ultimately co-founding her own company.
Born in Peru, Susan and her family moved back to her father’s hometown of Manchester to be closer to his family when she was a baby. Susan and her sister Veronica both seized the opportunity to apply to Summerbridge and she still vividly remembers her Summerbridge summers. “The program really pushes you to come out of your shell and teachers are really vested in that,” she says: “I didn’t realize how amazing it was at the time, there’s something very magical about it.”
Susan recollects, “Summerbridge got me totally into learning. I felt like I was ahead of the game and that gave me a lot of confidence which I didn’t have before. There was something different about the group of people, how everybody was accepted, everyone was so humble and amazing. It felt like learning was cool. I learned to love learning – they instilled this in us. It was cool to have younger teachers that I looked up to. I remember a French song about ants, and learning about physics in middle school was wild. We dissected a chicken in Biology and I don’t think I ate chicken for 2 years. Everyone there was so positive, not one negative thing!”
Susan enrolled at Tufts with plans to become a doctor. She happened to take an elective in computer science, loved it, and transferred into the engineering school. In 2005, she was the only woman who graduated with a degree in computer science engineering! “At the time I was kind of like a lone ranger. Summerbridge has given me the confidence to pursue challenging things, so even if it’s not the normal path for women, it doesn’t matter.”
After college, Susan loved working at a number of startups and met her Tinyhood co-founder at one of those companies. When Susan and Becky were starting families of their own, they were appalled at the resources available for new parents, particularly moms. Technology was outdated, with Yahoo Groups and blog posts, so these millennials decided to build their own software to improve the available options. Tinyhood was born!
They quit their jobs, did a lot of fundraising, and built a community platform for parents. One of their first investors was the founder of the previous startup where they worked – he believed in them! In early 2019 the pair took another big risk, believing that parenting education was going to convert from books and in-person classes to online videos. After spending a lot of money to film courses in everything from childbirth and breastfeeding to sleep training, they launched their courses to tremendous success!
With the onset of Covid, Tinyhood’s timing couldn’t have been better. To ease the anxiety of first-time parents trying to navigate their new role without family and support on hand during the pandemic, Tinyhood offered breastfeeding courses free of charge. Tinyhood helps new parents who may not have access to childcare, health, or education – equitable access to these resources for all is Tinyhood’s end mission, and membership is booming.
In reflecting on the impact Summerbridge has had on her life, Susan gets a little emotional. “I always think about, if I make it one day, who am I going to support and it’s definitely Breakthrough!” It was more important than college for me for where I am now,” she shares. “You hear a lot of kids saying, ‘I don’t want to go to school,’ but these students look forward to going to Breakthrough because it’s a learning experience that’s filled with the fun of learning. That’s a very hard thing to do and Breakthrough does it so well!”
Remembering Nancy Tessier
A Hero, a mentor, a critical friend to and builder of Breakthrough!
“I’ve been waiting my whole life for a program like this!”
– Nancy on the Founding of Summerbridge (Breakthrough) Manchester in 1991
Breakthrough Manchester was humbled and honored to be chosen as the recipient of memorial gifts in Nancy Tessier’s obituary (1941-2021). With the passing of Nancy, Breakthrough and the world of Education lost a shining star. Nancy was a true advocate for equitable education, as shared in her obituary, “Nancy was deeply devoted to educating Manchester’s children, but also to cultivating and mentoring the next generation of teachers. As a colleague, union negotiator, assistant principal and principal, and later as assistant superintendent and a school board member, Nancy’s advocacy for both students and teachers influenced the Manchester School District at every level.”
Her goals and Breakthrough’s dual mission align perfectly! Nancy saw Breakthrough as a potential life saver and exceptional gift to the Manchester community. She offered compelling recollections of students who had been stars in her class only to move on to an over-crowded “junior high school” where they got totally lost in the shuffle and in some cases, eventually dropped out of school altogether. Nancy was one of Breakthrough’s most loyal champions as she took the time to understand the program and help identify kids she felt would thrive. There were far too many skeptics and Nancy played an integral role in helping get the support to launch Summerbridge. Without Nancy’s advocacy, who knows if Breakthrough would have every gained the momentum to succeed?
When founding director, Lynn Sorenson visited Beech Street School after that first summer, Nancy came out of her office to say, “I hear only great things, I want you to talk me about the goals and long term commitment of the program.” She felt strongly that every educator in the city should know about Summerbridge, so Nancy brought Lynn to a meeting with the superintendent and all the principals where Lynn shared the vision and power of the program. That would never have happened in most cities, and it didn’t happen for the other Breakthrough directors across the country – Nancy just made it happen! “I credit her vision of just understanding what the communities’ problems were that I was so new to.” Nancy helped Lynn crack those pretty quickly so we weren’t losing time. Lynn’s favorite moments with Nancy were just talking about families and what she knew as an educator and the challenges of educating children in Manchester. They talked about malnutrition a lot and Nancy shared that she personally would bring food in for students and teach nutrition. “Nancy was so unique, I was shocked how open and honest and caring she was, it was amazing!”
From the beginning, Nancy made it clear there needed to be a commitment that Breakthrough would be around for a while. Her sentiment was, “we need to make sure this is still here when we’re all gone.” What a testament to Nancy and Breakthrough’s legacy that Breakthrough continues to grow and thrive thirty years later. Thank you Nancy for making this possible. Rest in peace.
“If we would have allowed ourselves to dream about what the program might become some day, it would have been for it to be imbedded in the community and seen as one of Manchester’s crown jewels. Nancy’s obituary makes me believe we’re there.” – Marc Hurlbut, Derryfield Head of School (1982-1994) and Founder of Breakthrough Manchester
Marc Hurlbut’s Annual Report piece:
From there, things moved relatively quickly. The response from teachers was overwhelmingly positive, one even saying this was the kind of program she had been waiting for her entire life. Her love for her students and her concern for their well-being was powerful. She offered compelling recollections of students who had been stars in her class only to move on to an over-crowded “junior high school” where they got totally lost in the shuffle and in some cases, eventually dropped out of school altogether. She saw Summerbridge as a potential life saver and an exceptional gift to the local community. There were far too many skeptics and Nancy played an integral role in helping us gain the support we desperately needed.
Marc Hurlbut’s email:
I remember Nancy well as she was one of the teachers I went to when we were trying to assess the viability of a Summerbridge program especially as it related to support from 6th grade teachers in Manchester. I felt at the time that without their support, the program would not work. As it turned out, the 6th grade teachers became some of our biggest cheerleaders and had a major impact on the Superintendent of Schools (can’t recall his name) who was lukewarm at best about the program. I am pretty sure it was Nancy who said to me after I described the basic premise of the program that this was a dream come true for her – “I’ve been waiting my whole life for a program like this.” She talked about the smart, bright-eyed kids in her class who left Beech Street to go to Hillside Junior High School only to get lost in the shuffle. Some came back to reconnect with her but many disappeared, turned to drugs and other distractions, and generally lost their desire to continue their education. Her passion for “her” kids was obvious and deep as was her pain in seeing many of her former students lose their way. For her, a program that would fill the summer void for some of these kids would be a life saver. She became one of our strongest and most loyal champions as she took the time to understand Summerbridge and then help identify kids she felt would thrive in the program. Without Nancy and others like her, we would have had an enormous challenge getting the program off the ground. There were far too many skeptics and Nancy played an integral role in helping us gain the support we desperately needed.
Nancy was always way to busy to come to Derryfield’s campus to visit Summerbridge. From the onset, she made it clear that she was not going to help unless you’re telling me this is going to be around for a while; we need to make sure this is still here when we’re all gone. What a testament to Nancy and Breakthrough’s legacy that Breakthrough reigns on…
Nancy worked her magic with the superintendent of schools and brought him to a point where he was not going to stand in the way.
When Lynn visited Beech Street after that first summer, Nancy came out of her office to say I hear only great things, I want you to talk me about the goals and long term commitment. We were trying to figure out how to connect with the SB students during the school year and Nancy invited them to Beech Street to connect in the school. She would stop by every week and encourage the kids and looked at their work and talk about curriculum. This needs to be known by every educator in the city. Nancy brought Lynn to a meeting with the superintendent and all the principals so she could share the vision of SB. That would never have happened in most cities, and it didn’t happen for the other Breakthrough directors across the country – Nancy just made it happen! “I credit her vision of just understanding what the communities’ problems were that I was so new to.” Lynn was coming from a big city, San Francisco, and it was a different set of problems. Nancy helped Lynn crack those pretty quickly so we weren’t losing time. My favorite moments with Nancy were just talking about families and what she knew as an educator and the challenges of educating children in Manchester. We talked about malnutrition a lot and what she personally did for kids like bringing food in and talking about nutrition. “Nancy’s was so unique, I was shocked how open and honest and caring she was, it was amazing!”
Without Nancy’s advocacy, who knows if Summerbridge/Breakthrough would have every gained the momentum to succeed? From a professional point of view, she was taking somewhat of a risk too. Her support of this program was illiustarting that there were major gaps in the public school program. Every sixth grader deserves to have this opportunity, so in the early days we would present to the whole sixth grade. As a self described blonde girl from California, she was so appreciative of the support Nancy provided b/c she didn’t know the city, she didn’t know the state.
Grateful for all the hard work from those early days to Nancy and to all of you.
Nancy Tessier, a fellow Manchester principal, inspired me through her efforts to ensure every student was worthy of the best education possible. Nancy’s lifelong commitment to all students and their teachers serves as a model for those who knew her and continue to carry on as dedicated and hard-working educators.
Nancy – she was a hero and a mentor and a critical friend to and builder of Summerbridge/Breakthrough. I also think that some of the best reflections would come from Beech Street School students who she nurtured over the years and encouraged to apply to Breakthrough. “Kids” like Billy have really beautiful recollections of their tough and loving principal.
You’ll see that the obit mentions her as a founder of Summerbridge/Breakthrough. I learned so much from Nancy, and the program wouldn’t have started without her. I just wanted to share in case you hadn’t heard and in case you wanted to honor and acknowledge her life and contributions to the Breakthrough community.
She was instrumental in getting Summerbridge off the ground when she was a teacher and later Principal at Beech Street School. She was a strong advocate for the program with the school board and department and officials in Manchester. She talked about how each September at the start of school you could tell the kids who had done Summerbridge. They were at their desks heads up, notebooks ready, pencils sharpened ready to learn.
Susan and Stan Czerepak
Mary, Remembering what a special human being Nancy was. We, all of us, are on the trail to the Happy Hunting Ground. Would that we could each be such a positive presence as Nancy was and leave the world a better place. Love, Susan & Stan
Nancy left an amazing legacy to education with her extraordinary experience and leadership skills. She will be sorely missed by all who knew her professionally and personally. A dear friend. Margaret
West Coast Breakthrough Student & Teacher, East Coast Director
“Everything was always a stretch assignment with Breakthrough…it stretches you beyond what you think you can achieve and with the right support you become what you couldn’t have imagined yourself to be!”
Joel Vargas’ parents put education first and dreamed of him attending Harvard one day! Growing up in a working class Bay Area neighborhood with a fair share of concentrated poverty meant that Joel’s middle school was a tough environment for learning. Joel liked school because he did well, but it was not a very rigorous academic environment and he never had to try very hard. At the time, Joel didn’t realize he should be learning a lot more to achieve his dream of going to college.
One day, Lois Loofburrow, the Founder and Director of Summerbridge (now Breakthrough) came to Joel’s classroom and promoted a summer program with academic extras and some fun stuff too. Talk of school in the summer made Joel tune out the idea almost immediately. But Mrs. Lawrence, Joel’s math teacher, followed up with his parents and Lois too recommend that Joel pursue Summerbridge. It took this advocacy to nudge Joel into Summerbridge; he did it because he wanted to make Mrs. Lawrence proud. Many Breakthrough students have a “Mrs. Lawrence” to thank for encouraging them to take that first step on their path to college.
Walking into San Francisco’s prestigious, private University High School (UHS) on his first day of Summerbridge was enlightening and a far cry from Joel’s Potrero Hill Middle School! Joel was proud to be one of many bright, motivated students from across San Francisco in Summerbridge’s second class of students. However, he quickly realized how far behind he was. The inequity was stark because of his schooling, his race, his neighborhood, and his family income. Joel had a lot of catching up to do! The program was truly transformative. It turned out that summer was the fun stuff, and the real work happened during the after school program where he worked with UHS students on how to write effectively and other things he should have already known.
An opportunity to attend UHS on scholarship turned out to be another kick in the pants. UHS was truly a different world. The social and academic divide was palpable, but after a rough start, Joel went on to thrive as student body president. Despite having great guidance counselors during the college process, UHS was not versed in working with candidates with high financial need. Unlike his friends, Joel was unable to head East for school because he did not receive the necessary financial support. After a year at San Francisco State, which he wouldn’t change for anything, Joel transferred to Boston University, sight unseen, for their journalism program. Although he had to overcome some financial hurdles, the academics were never a problem thanks to his educational foundation from Summerbridge and UHS.
Around the time of Joel’s college graduation, Summerbridge was expanding nationally and Lois suggested he reach out to Manchester Director Lynn Sorensen who Joel knew from Summerbridge San Francisco. Derryfield Head of School Marc Hurlbut and Lynn invited Joel to help out with the new program in Manchester, New Hampshire. His legacy from his time with BTM includes the introduction of Super Saturdays and School after School. He is most proud of building the endowment with the addition of the Elkin Teaching Fellowship and building the reputation of Breakthrough in the Manchester Community.
When Lois visited, she marveled, “No other program has as warm hellos and goodbyes as you do daily!” From the moment students got on the bus and throughout the day, they felt special. That special feeling begins with the name challenge Joel incorporated to encourage every student, Teaching Fellow, and staff member to learn each and every students’ name. This name challenge tradition carries on today and is something for all to aspire to each summer!
Joel finally realized the dream of attending Harvard with admission into the doctoral program at Harvard School of Education. It was here he met his wife and upon completion of his dissertation launched a 19-year career with Jobs for the Future focused on economic advancement and aligned with the ethos and mission of Breakthrough.
Siblings, Teaching and Learning Together at Breakthrough
Lajla and Dalila’s parents moved to the United States from Bosnia in 2001 to give their future family a better life. They had completed trade school in Bosnia, but the US educational system was not familiar to them. However, they ingrained in their daughters that college is an expectation…and Breakthrough Manchester is helping them meet this expectation.
Lajla, in her sixth year at Breakthrough and a senior at Central High School, will begin Criminology studies at St. Anselm in the fall – her first choice for college! A few weeks ago this option didn’t seem accessible, but through consistent and honest communication with the Department of Financial Aid, Lajla received a viable package. Meanwhile, her younger sister, Dalila, just completed her first year of Breakthrough and can’t wait for her 8th grade summer which will be the first fully in person Breakthrough summer in 3 years!
Discovering Breakthrough Manchester
During Breakthough’s annual visit to Hillside when Lajla was in 6th grade, she was surprised and delighted to learn this program was just what she needed to help her along her path to college. Talking about being “college-bound” is what initially drew Lajla to the program, but the spirited community and the idea of preparation for classes in the upcoming school year was what hooked her. In addition to completing her sixth and final year of Breakthrough, Lajla joined us as a Teaching Intern this school year.
Although Dalilla was only in first grade when Lajla started BTM, she remembers Lajla coming home everyday that summer raving about her experience. Naturally, when Chau presented Breakthrough toDalila’s 6th grade class, she was super excited – even if it was on Zoom! She even filled out the entire application, including her essay, that very day. The excitement mounted when she was asked for an interview and ultimately offered a spot in Breakthrough’s class of 2027! Upon being accepted to the program, Dalila recalls running into Lajla’s room to celebrate!
Dalila’s fondest memories from her summer include 4-square, Zumba dances with Deb, and Olympics lunch when water was dumped over her Teaching Fellow’s head. Her most valuable Breakthrough lesson is that everybody can be a teacher and a learner. Although Dalila was learning from her Teaching Fellows, she loved that they would learn things from her too.
One of the things that Lajla loves about Breakthrough Olympics is that you get to know people in different ways as you work together to tackle challenges and support your team. Lajla connected with friends she didn’t usually work with. Lajla also learned that teachers are there to help you and you can enjoy conversations that go beyond education. It wasn’t until Lajla became a Teaching Intern this school year that she fully understood the Breakthrough mantra “everybody’s a teacher and a learner.”
Collaboration at Breakthrough has truly resonated with Dalila who in school is always expected to take the lead on group projects. At Breakthrough group projects are truly collaborative, everybody pitches in to help out, and the results are much more effective. Speaking up and taking chances helps you in life just like the BTM norm, Lean into Discomfort suggests. Breakthrough taught Dalila that failure is okay and you learn best by getting back up to try again!
For Lajla, knowing when to step up and step back was the most challenging thing about Breakthrough, but also the norm that has been most valuable. She has learned to step up when she has an idea, and step back to collaborate and compromise when determining what is the best way to do something rather than just the easiest way.
Having experienced strong connections with former Teaching Fellows and knowing there are other students who don’t have the support and guidance they need at home inspired Lajla to step up and become a Teaching Intern to give back to the community that gave so much to her. Stepping up also gave her the advocacy skills to help negotiate her financial aid for Saint Anselm’s.
With Lajla as a Teaching Intern and Dalila a 7th grade student, the Husejnovic sisters enjoyed a unique opportunity to be Breakthrough Teachers and Learners together!