Breakthrough program in Philly helps prepare middle school students while training future teachers

With lots of energy and enthusiasm, the Breakthrough program of Greater Philadelphia is officially underway for its 2024 summer session on the campus of the Germantown Friends School,  

The program has a two-fold mission; to academically prepare rising middle schoolers in the city for the school year ahead while also encouraging students of color to become educators themselves.

Young teachers in training within the program, who are all students themselves, are passionate about educational equity and being the change they wish to see in the classrooms.

"Looking at the mission of breakthrough and how they want to help and serve underrepresented students, I feel like this is a great opportunity to get in the classroom," said Kalea Albanese, Summer Teaching Fellow.

Kalea Albanese is a student at LaSalle University now teaching 6th grade literature at Breakthrough.

"Growing up, I never had anyone that looked like me in the classroom, I grew up in a small, predominantly white area," Albanese said. "Sometimes if they don’t have someone they can relate to with background or ethnicity, they feel they aren’t valued enough or they don’t have any connections in the classroom."

Speaking of connections, FOX 29’s Shaynah Ferreira is a product of the Breakthrough program. She was a scholar in her middle school years and eventually came back as a teaching fellow at the Breakthrough program in Providence, Rhode Island.

While she didn’t become a teacher, she says the program really does make all the difference in the lives of inner city kids.

"I come back to breakthrough every year because it’s a good experience, it’s fun, it helps with your academics," said Rashan Boyd, a rising 8th grader.

Rashan Boy is entering his third summer at breakthrough and he says it’s worth his while!

"We look to encourage future teachers who want to work in an urban setting to have hands-on experience over the summer," said Sakina Parks, Program Manager, Breakthrough of Greater Philadelphia.

Parks says the teachers and students are focused, driven and have a deep love of learning.

"Our teachers are very young, very enthusiastic, they’re students themselves, so they bring a lot of fun into the learning." said the program manager. "Academic excellence is our goal, so our students participate in four periods per day."

Those subjects include math, literature, science and history. 

"I’m hoping to really get a huge step forward in pursuing my own teaching certificate and being able to work in a classroom of 15 plus students on my own and having the confidence to do that," said Katherine Johnson, Teaching Fellow.