‘Breakthrough’ helps students succeed in school, preps them for college

Breakthrough Miami teachers dress in costume for “Wacky Tacky Dress Day.”

During the summer, students from across Miami-Dade go to eight-week Breakthrough Miami programs at schools such as Palmer Trinity to help them get a jump start on learning for the next grade.

“Breakthrough provides out-of-school academic enrichment for students from low income families,” says Ariel Edwards, senior site director, who heads the program at Palmer Trinity School. “We recruit them in fourth grade, hopefully giving them academic skills, social skills and leadership skills.”


The long term objective is to help the students to go on to college.

“We provide tutoring, mentoring, the sixweek summer institute as well as the Saturday classes we offer from October to April during the school year,” Edwards says. “Our goal is for them to do well in school so they have the opportunity to go to any college of their choice.”

Breakthrough officials also look for ways to send the students to a top preparatory high school. “So they can enter International Baccalaureate programs, Advanced Placement and Honors classes. So they can be successful at those schools so they can go on to thrive in college,” she says.

The students attend programming as they enter fifth grade and receive academic help through middle school. When they become rising ninth graders, the programming switches to College Bound, which includes SAT and ACT prep classes, plus workshops. They are also coached on how to apply to college and they take college tours.

As juniors and seniors, they are able to become volunteers for Breakthrough Miami. “They volunteer as teachers, but they can come back for tutoring at any grade level,” Edwards says. “We recommend a lot of breakthrough juniors and seniors for the Posse program.”

Breakthrough Miami senior site director Ariel Edwards with members of the local professional community on visitor’s day.

Posse is a college scholarship program. One of the unique aspects of the six-week summer program is that students are teaching students.

“We bring in high school junior and seniors and college students,” Edwards says.

Some of the teachers this summer came from Palmetto Senior High, Coral Reef Senior High, Ransom, FAMU, Barry University, the University of Miami and a student from a college in Iowa. They received stipends of $1,500 to $2,000, depending on whether they are in high school or college.

“We provide a dorm at the University of Miami and some of the parents provide their homes for the eight weeks,” Edwards says.

This was Breakthrough Miami’s second summer at Palmer Trinity. They instructed 120 kids from fifth, sixth and seventh grades.

“My goal was to recruit new rising fifth graders,” Edwards says.

One of the advantages of being at Palmer is the school has the look and feel of a college campus.

“They don’t want to leave when the summer is over,” Edwards says.

Breakthrough Miami was started by alumni from Ransom Everglades. The first program was conducted at Ransom under the name Summer Bridge. There are now several campuses in the program that has evolved into Breakthrough Miami.

In the summer, the children take math, science, social studies and language arts. They may also choose electives such as journalism, dance, theater, chess, robotics, speech, debate and karate. They also have an hour of physical education.

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