Celebrating 30 Years of Breakthroughs!
October 2021 Update
Celebrating 30 Years of Breakthroughs in Stories

In commemoration of Breakthrough Manchester’s 30th anniversary, we will be doing a celebration in stories. Beginning with our founding and sharing how Breakthrough has grown and adapted to continuously strengthen that path to college for students while also training future teachers and leaders through our students-teaching-students model.

Our Summer of Impact!

Our students need Breakthrough more than ever. Manchester is the hardest hit city in New Hampshire by COVID and our families are among the most vulnerable within our city … and it doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon. In fact, the Manchester School District released data showing students are struggling due to remote learning, especially students of color. There has been a 10% increase in failed or missed classes and 1/3 of students had increased absences. Over 65% of Breakthrough students identify as students of color and are from underserved communities, which has made their challenges of the past 18 months even more intense.
Breakthrough continues to be there for our students. Although completely remote during Summer 2020, classes and community activities were held synchronously so students were able to see and interact with peers in real-time. We also provided extra school supplies, Chromebooks for virtual learning, and food support throughout the year. This past summer, we were able to welcome students back to campus on a rotating basis for safety. It was incredibly heartwarming to see the smiles in their eyes and hear their voices once again. Our campus remained COVID safe as we saw the impact of 18 empathic Teaching Fellows creating strong mentor bonds with middle schoolers suffering from COVID-mandated social isolation.
The impact of this summer was joyfully felt by 9th graders who were spending their final Breakthrough summer on The Derryfield School campus. The highlight of the summer was their first field trip in 2 years! Breakthrough is famous for providing many “firsts” for our students and this trip to Star Island of the Isles of Shoals was no exception. For many, it was their first time on a boat, and for most, the first time on a ferry! Few students had ever been on an island and none had ever scavenged for and enjoyed tasting edible plants growing in the wild! They learned about various sea animals and their habitats in the science center and about purification and sustainability in the water treatment plant. There were lessons on history and hands-on gardening – but the best part of the day was the joyful laughter as they played volleyball on the big sloping lawn overlooking the sea. There were lots of tired 14-year-olds heading home that evening!
Every grade level enjoyed new experiences from climbing walls to karate, crafts to cooking, and performance art to Zumba. They also studied the science of gardening, the art of debate and published a “Summerbook.” The culmination of each grade’s final week on campus was our own version of Olympic games which combined academic and creative competition with a rigorous obstacle course. Teaching Fellows decorated themed tables and dressed in costume to serve their students a delicious lunch while also performing songs and dances or reading poetry at their students’ requests. It was truly a fun and impactful way to end the summer session.

Meanwhile, core subjects of math, science, writing, and literature were taught every day, reinforcing skills learned the previous year, and filling in gaps from missed COVID learning, while introducing concepts key to their learning during the upcoming school year. Algebra number lines were chalked on the pavement and the circulatory system acted out as blue and red (balls) blood cells moved through the “heart”. The play, A Raisin in the Sun, was performed in costume and students wrote compelling essays about their passions through “This I Believe” essays.
Community service and team building were part of leadership skill building in which every student spoke or performed in front of the entire Breakthrough community. Powerful connections were made through thoughtful conversations and advisory activities where each and every student felt a true sense of belonging. Breakthrough provided a safe harbor in a sea of uncertainty.
Throughout Breakthrough’s Summer of Impact, it was our Teaching Fellows who directly guided and mentored students. College students with a passion for teaching through a lens of social justice shared their knowledge of geometry and physics as well as their love for reading and writing. They created safe spaces for conversations around diversity, equity, and inclusion. Teaching Fellows talked about their experiences applying to and selecting colleges, as well as what it is like to live and learn on a university campus or experience a year abroad. All the while, they made learning fun and the summer of 2021 truly memorable.
Breakthrough Manchester recruits Teaching Fellows from colleges across the country and encourages them to pursue a career in education. Our students-teaching-students model reaches middle school students from underserved communities to place them firmly on their own path to college. Research shows that once attaining a college degree, a student is 95% more likely not to return to poverty. Breakthrough students are the bright stars and leaders of tomorrow and will have many more Summers of Impact ahead of them! We can’t wait to see the places they will go!