Since 1995, Breakthrough of Greater Philadelphia has served more than 1,300 underserved students. In that time, the program has evolved from a “bridge” program for two summers designed to provide middle school students an academically rigorous summer with exposure to dynamic college students from around the country to a ten year intensive college access and persistence program with long term goals for the students’ success.

Ultimately, the goal is for each Breakthrough student to graduate with a degree from a four year college or university. In pursuit of this goal, the organization has made key programmatic shifts based on students’ outcome data. The original Summerbridge program model was designed under the principle that middle school intervention and enrollment in college preparatory high schools would ultimately improve four year college graduation rates.


In 2008, as Summerbridge transitioned to become Breakthrough, Philadelphia’s leadership reviewed four year college enrollment data for classes graduating high school and recognized that students needed support throughout high school. As a result, Breakthrough began to offer an array of high school services and experiences to support four year college enrollment.

In 2014-2015, Breakthrough leadership reviewed four-year college persistence data for classes receiving high school services, and recognized that students needed additional support to overcome common hurdles to college completion. The organization then committed to developing an alumni program and supporting students through college. Beginning with the 2016 high school class, students participate in Breakthrough to College, a multiple-day summer program designed to prepare students for the transition to residential college life. Alumni also have access to Breakthrough staff and resources to navigate common challenges for first generation and underresourced students in their first year of college life and beyond. Breakthrough has a planned expansion to offer wider and deeper services to alumni, as well as to provide in depth opportunities to learn about post-college careers.

% of Breakthrough High School Alumni Enrolled in Four Year College (since 2009)

% of Breakthrough High School Students Graduate High School

% of Breakthrough High School Students
Attend College Preparatory High Schools

In order to achieve this goal, Breakthrough works with families to ensure that students are applying to high schools and colleges that will best support their goals and dreams. As part of our semi-monthly Saturday program during the school year and our six week summer programs with students, families with students in middle school experience educational opportunities to prepare them to navigate the high school application process. A member of the Breakthrough staff also works to provide individualized support to ensure that students are applying to high schools that will best prepare them.

Throughout high school, Breakthrough also educates students and families about scholarships and financial aid and provides support and services to ensure that students are prepared for the competitive college application process.

Teaching Fellows

Since 1995, Breakthrough of Greater Philadelphia has served more than 300 college students as part of their path to careers in education and other fields. During their nine week Teaching Fellowship, these Teaching Fellows engage in 80+ hours of pre-classrooom training and professional development, experience at least 60 hours of direct classroom instruction as the lead teacher, and receive, on average, 30 hours of instructional support from a content-based coach.

Teaching Fellows at Breakthrough of Greater Philadelphia experience the entire educator cycle. With their coaches, they use data to plan and assess lessons. They write and adapt lesson plans and homework, teach classes of 10 – 15 students, grade the work they assigned, and communicate with students and families to share information about the students’ progress and growth areas. Teaching Fellows work in department teams and grade groups throughout the summer to share best practices and learn from one another.

% of 2017 teaching fellows who feel they have a better understanding of the demands of teaching and feel better prepared to pursue a career in teaching after participating in Breakthrough

% of teaching fellows who definitely planned careers working with or advocating on behalf of youth before participating in Breakthrough

% of teaching fellows who definitely planned careers working with or advocating on behalf of youth after participating in Breakthrough

% of BTGP Teaching Fellows Alumni as of 2015 who were satisfied with their Breakthrough experience

Teaching Fellows also bring fun, energy, and spirit to the program. Knowing that students commit to completing two hours of homework per night, their teachers work in committees throughout the summer to create decorations, plan the daily All Site Meeting with skits and songs, and overall keep the students engaged throughout the entire six week program.

Teaching Fellows continue on to participate in many nationally recognized teacher training programs, including:

  • University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education
  • Teach For America
  • Relay Graduate School of Education
  • Boston Teacher Residency
  • Uncommon Schools
  • and more

Breakthrough Collaborative

180 Grand Ave #1225, Oakland, CA 94612, USA