For many middle school students, summer means socializing with friends, staying up late and unwinding at the beach. However, for the 93 San Jose Unified School District students involved in Breakthrough Silicon Valley, summer provides the perfect opportunity to advance their academic careers.
A majority of the students participating in Breakthrough come from underserved backgrounds. 85% plan to be the first member of their families to attend college. The desire to be accepted into prestigious universities is the driving force for these pre-teens. The students of Breakthrough are financially supported by several businesses, individuals and the San Jose Unified School District. As a 2011-12 grant recipient, the Sharks Foundation is among these supporters.
Recently, Sharks Foundation board members and staff visited Hillbrook School in Los Gatos to observe Breakthrough’s Middle School Summer Program. The intensive curriculum readies the students for their upcoming classes and prepares them to enroll in Geometry by their freshman year of high school, an indication that they are on the right track for college enrollment.
Apart from Math and English classes, the students also partake in Art History, Journalism, Photography and many more unique courses. The balance of coursework enables the pre-teens to discover their passions, decide which high school classes to pursue, or even help them make a decision on which college to attend in the future.
Classes are taught by elite college and high school students. The minimal age difference between student and instructor offers a distinctive opportunity for mentorship and inspiration. Teachers engage the students by taking the lessons out of the classroom. One field trip, for example, led the students to the location at which a classroom novel was written. As a result, the students are learning not just from their teachers, but also from their personal experiences.
In addition to the summer program, students receive support throughout the school year with the After School Math Program, High School Advising Program and College Preparation Program to ensure that they continue achieving to the best of their ability. It is clear that Breakthrough is providing these inspiring young minds with the proper tools to help them attain or exceed their impressive aspirations.