Michelle Palmer, Executive Director

Michelle Palmer became Executive Director of Breakthrough of Greater Philadelphia in February 2021, the culmination of decades of work in the field of education. As a teacher and administrator at Germantown Friends School and other independent schools, Michelle works closely with students, faculty and staff on strategic initiatives to advance diversity, equity and inclusion in education.

Michelle is deeply committed to making education fair and accessible. To that end, she facilitates the Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity (SEED) staff development project, and currently teaches a Social Justice course at GFS’s Upper School. She is a co-founder of the GFS Alumni of Color program and served as its first manager until 2020. In recent years, Michelle has shared her expertise and experience in this area by presenting at several prestigious education conferences around the country.

Michelle has a Master of Science in Education in Instructional Technology from Arcadia University, a Master of Science in Nonprofit Management from New School University, and a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from Temple University.


Why Breakthrough — I love Breakthrough because it fills a gap for so many children and provides them with an opportunity to learn and surround themselves with like-minded individuals. Growing up in a single-parent household, my mom would have loved to have a program like Breakthrough for me to help me with my academics. I always loved learning but having peers and teachers to support me would have been an extraordinary boost to my confidence.

Fun Fact — I love to Roller Skate and have a pair of white skates with pink wheels!



Sakina Parks, Program Manager

Sakina Parks currently serves as Program Manager for Breakthrough of Greater Philadelphia. A true advocate for all students, Sakina has an extensive track record in the field of education. Sakina has dedicated her career to ensuring that all children have access to quality education and that they have the tools needed to succeed. She has worked as a teacher for grades K-6 for various independent schools in Philadelphia and surrounding areas over the past 20 years, and was named Teacher of the Year at The Lotus Academy in 2012.

Sakina honed her skills in enrichment programs by taking leadership roles in various nonprofit and community organizations, where she spearheaded the development and implementation of out-of-school learning programs. Most recently, she has worked as a special instructor for children with developmental delays, providing intervention to assist in their educational abilities.

Sakina is a proud graduate of Spelman College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology and a minor in Education.

Why Breakthrough — I love Breakthrough because of its dual mission. Training future teachers while educating youth is a mission that will have a huge impact on our communities for years to come.

Fun Fact — I enjoy traveling and one day hope to visit Alaska.



Sue Chen, Recruitment Manager

Sue Chen is the newest member of the Breakthrough of Greater Philadelphia team and currently serves as the organization’s Recruitment Manager. Her experiences in college admissions recruitment and enrollment management operations aid in curating a robust and diverse applicant pool. While working in admissions and enrollment management, not only did Sue have the opportunity to work with applicants and their families, but also oversaw data management of the entire undergraduate admission application pool and all application-related processes. Working towards educational equity has always been a goal for Sue, as she enjoys opportunities to work with first-generation students just like herself. She has also been afforded the opportunity to oversee several scholarships for underserved student populations. Sue earned her undergraduate degree in Environmental Studies and East Asian Studies from Bucknell University.

Why Breakthrough — I think Breakthrough is unique since we work with students in their early years of middle school. We are able to reach these students at a critical juncture in their education and help them reach their fullest potential.

Fun Fact – I love trying new foods and will try anything at least one time! I’ve had fried scorpions in Beijing, frog legs in Louisiana and even live squid in South Korea.


Michelle Reyes Aleti, Communications & Development Manager


Michelle brings two decades of experience in both marketing and education to bolster Breakthrough’s outreach. She managed a number of businesses at Procter & Gamble (Gillette, Venus, P&G Beauty), developing and implementing operations and marketing strategies to help grow the brands in North America and globally. She has also served as a marketing consultant and advisor to a number of US-based consumer brands and area independent schools.

Michelle is particularly passionate about the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion in shaping students’ educational experiences. Throughout her career, Michelle has served as a mentor in several capacities, from helping middle/high school students find and cultivate their passions, career interests and leadership styles, to teaching MBAs and undergraduates as an Adjunct Professor of Marketing at Drexel University.

Michelle earned her MBA in Strategy and Marketing from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. She is also a graduate of New York University, where she earned a Bachelor of Science in Finance degree and a minor in Psychology.

Why Breakthrough — I love the passion, dedication and energy that surrounds Breakthrough of Greater Philadelphia, from middle school students and their families to the teaching fellows and staff. Preparedness, opportunity, inspiration and exposure can make a meaningful difference in students’ lives. I am thrilled to be involved in an organization that provides these collective experiences for our students and teaching fellows, helping them build confidence and reach their educational and life goals.

Fun Fact – I have 42 first cousins.

Breakthrough Collaborative

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