Dr. Robbin Smart is honored and excited to be the Executive Director of Breakthrough of Greater Philadelphia. Her life's work has been devoted to a career in the leadership of educational institutions, in addition to having years of experience as a classroom educator. She is personally committed to the lifelong learning and advancement of all students in an atmosphere that is dedicated to achieving excellence. As the challenges facing first-generation college students in this country deepen and the need for qualified, committed educators grows, I am proud to be part of an organization that has developed a bold new vision to support students to and through college, and to establish the organization as a key element within the teacher pipeline and certification process.
Prior to joining Breakthrough, Dr. Smart served in several leadership capacities including the Interim Director of Enrollment Management at Girard College, the Principal and Deputy Chief Executive Officer of a charter school, and as a mentor and coach for novice and experienced teachers. She began her career as a teacher at Friends Select School in Philadelphia.
Dr. Smart was awarded a Doctorate in Educational and Organizational Leadership from the University of Pennsylvania, a Master's Degree in Multicultural Education from Eastern University, and Bachelor of Arts, with a major in Political Science, from Swarthmore College. She also has principal certifications in Pennsylvania and Delaware. Her focus on education extends outside the classroom. She has served on the Board of Directors of the Eastern University Charter School in Philadelphia and on the Board of Directors for A Better Chance, Strath Haven.
Tascha Chalmers is excited to join the Breakthrough of Greater Philadelphia team as the Director of Academic Programs, Community Outreach, and Special Projects. She comes to Breakthrough after a long career of working to improve equity and access in Philadelphia.
Tascha has experience working in non-profit organizations, the government, mental health institutions, and college access programs. She is a proud graduate of North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University and Lincoln University.
Miriam Leisman joined the staff of Breakthrough of Greater Philadelphia full time as the Director of Programs in 2015 after supporting Teaching Fellows for multiple summer programs since 2010. An experienced educator with background in both information technology and curriculum development, Miriam brings a decade of experience as an educator and eighteen years of experience in the workforce.
Before joining Breakthrough, Miriam taught multiple subjects -- primarily Mathematics -- to middle and high school students in the Philadelphia area. She earned her Masters of Education in Secondary Mathematics from the University of Pennsylvania, her Bachelor of Arts in Jewish Studies from Scripps College in Claremont, California, and her Associate of Science in Computer Science from Montgomery County Community College in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania.
Parris is passionate about Breakthrough’s unique dual mission to combat educational equity and access in two ways: By helping students to and thru college and developing future educators and advocates. As a first generation college graduate herself Parris understands firsthand how impactful mentors and enrichment programs like Breakthrough are.
Parris graduated from California State University-East Bay with a bachelor’s degree in Business with a focus in marketing, public relations and organizational communication and a minor in African American studies. She previously worked for GE Healthcare in sales and marketing roles.
After living all over the country working in corporate America, Parris decided she wanted to help students like herself get access to the resources they would need to become successful college graduates and young professionals.
Parris served as the Middle School Site Director for Breakthrough of Greater Philadelphia’s middle school site located on Drexel’s campus for two and a half years prior to her role as the Development and Communications Associate. What excites her most about her working in development and communications is her ability to bridge her experience in corporate American with her hands on experience running the middle school program day in and day out.
“Breakthrough students are some of the hardest working and dedicated youth I have ever met. They understand delayed gratification and sacrifice copious amounts of time because they are determined to become a college graduate. I am honored to be able to serve them, they are what makes this work so meaningful!”
Debra Stevens is the Executive Administrative Assistant at Breakthrough of Greater Philadelphia. In joining Breakthrough she was excited to be a part of a program that provides academic enrichment to the students of Philadelphia.
Debra is a native of Philadelphia and attended Community College of Philadelphia, where she received an Associate's degree in Information Technology and then attended Saint Joseph's University, where she received a Bachelor's of Science degree in Healthcare Administration.
Prior to joining Breakthrough Debra was a practice manager of a primary care office and also a software analyst and training consultant for ten years at a large company.
Sonya Chen is currently attending Swarthmore College where she is studying Political Science with minors in Sociology and Statistics. As the Program Manager at Breakthrough of Greater Philadelphia, her role includes working with Site Coordinators and the Program Associate to ensure that Saturday programs are successful. Sonya loves how Breakthrough fuses academic programs with strong elements of mentorship/support, creating a community. Sonya previously worked with Breakthrough during the summer program at both the Drexel University site partner and Swarthmore College. As she constantly learns from the students she looks forward to continuing to work with Breakthrough.
Kelly Jung graduated from Haverford with a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy where she minored in Chinese. As the High School Site Coordinator with Breakthrough of Greater Philadelphia, her role consists of coordinating with volunteers and students in the high school program to ensure that students have an active and rewarding experience, and are well prepared for the college process.
Kelly taught one summer in the Breakthrough program at Swarthmore and was so inspired and challenged, she wanted to continue working with students who are so driven, intelligent, and full of endless potential.
Ilana Lipowicz graduated from SUNY Binghamton in 2015 where she studied Creative Writing and minored in Russian and Film. As the Test Prep Instructor for Breakthrough of Greater Philadelphia, she teaches the Saturday program Test Prep course for ACT and SAT readiness for grades 9 – 11. She loves how Breakthrough helps motivated kids get the head start they need to make the most out of their lives and is excited to continue working with Breakthrough.
Crystal Nelson is the Instructional Coach for Breakthrough of Greater Philadelphia. She works with volunteers and teachers to support program by improving their instruction and training/supporting Breakthrough’s educational staff.
Steven Perez is the Program Support and Operations Associate for Breakthrough of Greater Philadelphia. He supports program by managing communications (e-mail, text, and mail) and data entry and analysis.
Steven graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Literature from Florida State University and has previously worked in education non-profits as a Communications Associate. The Breakthrough model immediately spoke to him and is honored and grateful to work for an organizations that provides a support system for students at a young age and future educators through the teaching fellows aspect of the program.
Jamika Porter graduated from Eastern University with a BA in Organizational Leadership and Development and an MBA in Business Management. As the Middle School Site Coordinator for Breakthrough of Greater Philadelphia, her role consists of coordinating with volunteers and students in the middle school program to ensure that students have an enriching experience with engaging teachers and volunteers and are prepared for high school. With such love for what Breakthrough does for students, she has a true desire to be a part of positive change.