Five middle schoolers from BTC’s site in Eastern Carver County share advice on applying to Breakthrough and what they like most about being in the program. Students featured in order: Dylan, Zagal, Mykayla, Melva, and Nyarai.
If you watched KARE 11 at all on Monday, February 21, you may have seen some familiar faces… that’s right: Breakthrough Twin Cities was featured in the station’s Communities that KARE series!
Staff members Josh and Hallie had the opportunity to sit down and share the BTC story with producers, resulting in a wonderful spotlight of our organization that you can watch by clicking the link below. Thank you to KARE 11 for helping us spread the word of our mission with the greater Twin Cities, helping us build excitement for our quickly approaching Booyah Bash gala.
We have extended the deadline for our student application to Friday, February 25th. If you are still working on an application, or if you have not started one yet, you have until the 25th to submit it and have your application considered!
For 18-year old Max, Breakthrough Twin Cities came around at just the right time. After receiving a scholarship in first grade, he was able to attend a private school from elementary up until the end of middle school. Though he was grateful for the academic opportunity, there was still something missing in his social life.
“I felt really lonely,” Max said. “I had friends, and people knew me, but I felt really isolated being the only Hmong kid [in my grade], and at that point, only one of two Asian boys. I was really self-conscious.”
But then, after a recommendation from one of his teachers, he found out about Breakthrough Twin Cities. Once he applied, he was accepted into the program.
“For the first time, I was able to talk and hang out with kids like me,” Max said. “Being able to connect with people in that way, and to connect with myself, it was like a burst of life.”
And there’s no more accurate way to describe the high-energy pace of a Breakthrough summer. Though academically rigorous, the summer program regularly incorporates games, creative arts, outdoor activities, and even things like dance courses. Apart from preparing students for the next year of school and beyond, the program is built to provide an enthusiastically supportive community to students like Max. His introduction to BTC, he notes, opened up a whole new world of possibilities.
“At first, I was taken aback by the enthusiasm of everyone,” said Max. “I tend to be a low-energy person, and I’m fairly introverted — at least I thought so until I went to Breakthrough. At the time, it felt like I was acting like someone else, but I was really just coming into myself. BTC helped me mature.”
Now a senior at Central High School, Max continues to realize the value of his participation in BTC, and how its impact has extended from his life as a seventh grader to his life now. Although Max had always planned to go to college, BTC provided necessary guidance on how to start planning for it.
“I didn’t know what college was like, I didn’t understand the idea or the concept,” he said. “Breakthrough helped me flesh out that idea, and made the dream that much brighter.”
Max loves English, and he plans to study the discipline when he heads off to college next fall. He’s prepared his applications and eagerly awaits the decision that will determine his next step in life. He’s always been drawn to storytelling, and hopes this passion will develop into a career in the humanities, in social work, or even as a defense attorney.
The one sure thing is that Max won’t forget the student peers and Teaching Fellows who supported him along the way. Even today, he marvels at how much everyone cried at the end of each Breakthrough summer, feeling moved to think that he’d be missed that much by teachers he’d only known for a few weeks. Beyond being an excellent source of academic enrichment, the program became something he was emotionally invested in, too. He can still feel the support of his BTC community today.
“Breakthrough has prepared me to become who I am today and who I will be tomorrow. For me, it was so foundational,” Max said. “Even if it is just a step, it’s a critical step. If I didn’t have BTC, the Max you’re talking to today would be a completely different person with a very different set of experiences.”
Due to the anticipated weather conditions, and getting word back that the buses for Saint Paul will not be running tomorrow, we unfortunately must cancel tomorrow’s Saturday Session. This will be for BOTH sites: Saint Paul-Mounds Park Academy and Eastern Carver County-Chaska High School.
Our next Saturday Session is January 22nd, so we hope to see you all then! Please drive safe this weekend and reach out to the program team email below if you have any questions or concerns. Stay warm — we appreciate your understanding!
Senam is involved in a debutante cotillion program, pictured here.
This month’s “Be Breakthrough” student spotlight is Senam Akyea, a current senior at Highland Park High School.
Senam has embodied many different roles at BTC; not only is she a current BTC student, but she’s been a Teaching Fellow (2020), a Program Intern, and a BTC Student Representative at various events like our annual Booyah Bash. Ever since her first summer at Breakthrough, she couldn’t wait to be involved in these greater capacities.
“From the start, I’ve just been in love with Breakthrough, and there was nothing else I envisioned doing with my summers,” Senam said.
She had a lot to say about her experience as a student in the program:
“Breakthrough is such a huge part of my life. A big part of my Breakthrough experience was having a community that is just super supportive, super loving, and just incredible. I really enjoyed having something that was outside of school — school is just not as engaging as BTC is. I was able to retain the important subjects I needed, especially when I might’ve struggled during the year with certain topics.”
As a senior this year, she prepares for her college search, the culmination of all her efforts from the past five years. Her application essay is nearly complete, she said, thanks to a BTC essay writing boot camp she attended during the summer.
She feels ready to seek out the school of her dreams, where she hopes to pursue a career in psychotherapy. Senam chose this career route because she enjoys talking to people about what afflicts them and she sees a need for Black professionals in the field. She is excited to make great strides in her studies this year and beyond graduation, hopefully attending a school out-of-state and further broadening her horizons.
“Breakthrough gave me the confidence I needed to be myself and speak my mind,” said Senam. “I knew that no one would judge me — it’s a family. We all have a place where we feel loved.”
Keep doing great things, Senam! BTC is lucky to have you, and we’re excited to see where your future takes you.
Pictured is Senam after participating in a student panel for the Association of Metropolitan School Districts.