Paying it forward
“Being around kids who actually wanted to learn made me see school in a different light.”
Drew Bukasa and his twin sister Arlene spent the summer before their 7th, 8th, and 9th grade years participating in Breakthrough of Greater Philadelphia as scholars. Then, in the summers after his Junior and Senior years, Drew returned to Breakthrough to be a teaching fellow to teach the younger generations.
How did you find out about Breakthrough?
My sixth grade science teacher Ms. Heinz was actually a teaching fellow at Breakthrough when she was younger, and she said I should apply. At first, I didn’t want to do it because it meant school during the summertime. I did it and I'm glad I did because I have great friends from Breakthrough all the way back from sixth grade until today.
What impact did Breakthrough have on you?
Breakthrough made coming to school fun again. I feel like if I hadn't attended, I probably would not be the way I am in school, right now, because I always had issues with being motivated and liking school. Being around kids who actually wanted to learn made me see school in a different light. Also, having the extra support system and knowing that you will have it next year was very helpful to me.
What memories stand out most vividly to you?
There are so many. If there's a highlight, I would say it would be the DC trip. There was also a full-day scavenger hunt in Center City. Everybody had different teams and each item had a certain amount of points. I can’t forget Mr. Nick. Mr. Nick had a different song and different dance every single day. He used to rap for us and sing poems and stuff. I also took an improv elective. I never thought I would be acting, but it was the best elective I took at Breakthrough.
What was it like going from scholar to teaching fellow?
It was odd to be known as a teacher. They (scholars) thought I was 21 years old, but I was only three or four years older than they were. But I connected with them. I knew that most of these kids probably did not want to be there during their summers. I knew ways to mess with them and have fun with them in class. The biggest thing during off time was playing basketball games with them to connect. They love basketball. We even had a teaching fellow and scholars basketball game.
Any advice you have for scholars starting at Breakthrough?
Don't be afraid to talk to your teaching fellows. It may seem awkward meeting new people and having new teachers, but teaching fellows are also nervous too, and we can be both nervous together!
What’s next for you?
I’m starting at the University of Pennsylvania this fall (2022), and I’m looking at math or economics. I want to be a high school teacher, but first I am going into business, maybe finance or maybe financial consulting. I want to introduce kids in the inner city to the world outside and the finance industry and business as a whole. At Breakthrough, this teaching fellow Gino and I had a Money 101 course teaching things like how budgeting works and understanding credit cards!
I could go straight into teaching, but I feel like with firsthand experience in the business world, I can actually start teaching people about what actually happens. I feel like the students grab on to it more because they understand that you've done it before.
As of 2024, Drew continues to teach at Breakthrough in the Summer as well as in our school year program. He is in his second year at University of Pennsylvania.