Angel Moreno Rodriguez

Angel Moreno Rodriguez

See what Angel Moreno Rodriguez, a 7th grade BTC student at Highland Park Middle School, has to say about his time in Breakthrough!

1. If someone had never heard of BTC, what is the one thing you would say to help them understand what BTC does?
It helps you get a better understanding of college and prepares you for the future, both in terms of careers and potential accomplishments.

2. What motivated you to be a part of Breakthrough?
My sister motivated me a lot because she’s in Breakthrough. I wasn’t really doing well in school, I wasn’t really paying attention and she was like “Oh you know Breakthrough could help you. I feel like you should apply.” I said “Maybe, if I’m not lazy enough to write a whole essay.” I started doing poorly on tests, so I decided to do the application because I wanted help in school.

3. How has BTC impacted you?
Breakthrough taught me that I should just be myself and go for what I care about. I know that my path means that I might take some different steps than other students, but I know that Breakthrough will help me get where I want to be.

4. Why have you stayed involved in BTC?
I don’t know, it’s just become a part of my life. I’ve made new friends, and I’m closer to people. I know that Breakthrough is only for six weeks during the summer but Breakthrough has become a part of me. It sounds kind of corny but that’s how I feel.

5. What is your favorite Breakthrough Code and why?
“Be Grateful” – because I believe you shouldn’t take anything for granted. You should be glad that someone worked hard or you worked hard for the things you’ve accomplished.

6. If you could give Breakthrough a shoutout, what would it be for?
I give Breakthrough a shoutout for really making me strive to understand. Like the Be Grateful code, I wasn’t grateful for a lot before Breakthrough, and Breakthrough pushed me to understand more.

Latrese Johnson

Latrese Johnson is a BTC freshman attending Highland Park High School. Check out what she has to say about her time in BTC below!

1. If someone had never heard of BTC, what is the one thing you would say to help them understand what BTC does?

Breakthrough helps students who really want to get to college but might not have all the resources. So Breakthrough helps them make sure they are guided through that really difficult path to get to college.

2. What motivated you to be a part of Breakthrough?

I applied because I knew my mom would want me to apply. When I first heard about it I didn’t think it would really be like this. I didn’t think it would be nearly as fun or that I would build as much of a community. And especially starting at such a young age, thinking about college has been cool. 

3. How has BTC impacted you?

It makes me feel more prepared than a lot of my other peers. Everyone else in my grade is like “oh…? High school!” They’re thinking about the moment and I’m thinking more about the future. And Breakthrough helps me think ahead to what my goals might be.

4. Why have you stayed involved in BTC?

Breakthrough is a big part of my summer. It’s been that one routine thing that happens every year. Since I’ve known these people for three years I’m attached to them and it feels like we’re a family. 

5. What is your favorite Breakthrough Code and why?

My favorite code is “Be Grateful,” mostly because it’s something I need to work on. I feel like the people I love, they know that I love them, but sometimes I don’t say it as much. I think people should be more explicit about the care they have for the people who are important to them. 

6. If you could give Breakthrough a shoutout, what would it be for?

I would give them a shoutout for changing kids’ lives. I don’t know how many of us would even be wanting to go or thinking about college and if it wasn’t for Breakthrough I feel like a lot of us would be struggling to get there.

7. Is there anything else you want to share about Breakthrough?

I just want to talk about the impact that it has had on our lives again. A lot of our parents didn’t go to college and making sure that you’re doing well in high school can be overwhelming to do by yourself, especially if your family hasn’t been through it. I’m very thankful for Breakthrough as well.

Shouayee Vue

Shouayee Vue, BTC Class of 2018 alum and 2018 Summer Session Teaching Fellow, shares her thoughts on Breakthrough in her interview below!

1. How did you become aware of Breakthrough, and why did you decide to get involved as a Teaching Fellow?

I was first introduced to Breakthrough by Ashley Cooper, BTC staff member, when I was in 6th grade. The way she explained Breakthrough with immense energy as well as the genuine concern she showed for my future really stuck with me during my next six years in the program. I decided to get involved even more in Breakthrough because something inside urged me to give back to the community that I loved the most. Because Breakthrough was the place where I was able to find aspects of my identity and become confident in life, I wanted to contribute my energy into this positive learning environment and continue the magic that happens over the summer.

2. In what ways has your teaching experience at Breakthrough helped you develop and grow as an individual?

One major takeaway from my teaching experience is that giving up on others is not an option. This has had a huge impact on my lifestyle because I struggle with the “Persist” code. When something doesn’t go well, I try to avoid conflict. But as a teacher, I can’t give up on my students no matter how difficult it gets. Keeping good relations with my students and just being present in their lives is so important in developing growth that there is no time to be pushing people aside. This has flowed into my personal life where I’ve learned more about my relationships and how important it is to see those I care about daily. I have matured and created ways to find time to catch up with family and friends because relationships are valuable. Giving up on others is detrimental to relationships and I shouldn’t lose them when they are trying just as hard to reach similar goals in life.

3. What advice or suggestions would you give for someone else who wants to get involved with Breakthrough or apply to be a Teaching Fellow?

Be prepared to cry. It may be tears of sadness when classes don’t go well, tired tears from running around all day, or tears of joy when you see your students improve so much and stand on stage for Celebration. Great things aren’t meant to be easy, and I am glad Breakthrough is the hardest thing I will accomplish in my life because I know the outcomes will be the best.

4. Where do you see yourself ten years down the line?

In ten years, I see myself advocating for my beliefs and morals. I will continue to be a person with a voice, more confident with my identity, and more aware of what has been going on around me. In ten years, I will have a support system full of friends and family who will all share a goal of living successfully. I may not be the richest, but I envision myself to be content with my life because I will have gone on a path that I’ve created for myself.

John Nguyen, BTC student “xcels” in and out of the classroom

John Nguyen, Harding High School junior, has been a member of the BTC community since the summer before his seventh grade. For John, BTC offers academic rigor and social-emotional support, as well as a real sense of community. “My favorite part of Breakthrough is the camaraderie and friendly environment. I have made lifelong friends through the program. The program is closely-knit, and all the staff are student advocates.”

John has taken full advantage of everything the Breakthrough community has to offer. With a flawless GPA, National Honor Society membership, and a host of academic awards, John is thriving in his International Baccalaureate Scholar Program at Harding High School. Outside of the classroom, John continues to impress with his dedication to clubs and groups he is passionate about. Whether leading student council sessions, performing with VocalEssence Singers of this Age Youth Choir, solving complex problems on the varsity math team, or competing at varsity swim meets, John succeeds in any environment.  

Reflecting on the impact that BTC has had on him personally, John recalls using Breakthrough’s “growth mindset” when trying out for the Harding swim team. “Coming into high school, I had not participated in sports before and I was labeled as unathletic. Despite this, I joined the swim team as a freshman, went to all the practices, used my coaches’ feedback, and pushed myself. I was able to make the varsity team during my freshman year!” John notes that Breakthrough’s emphasis on constantly striving to improve and progress helped him in this endeavor and others.

More recently, John completed a summer internship with Xcel Energy, assisting the Manager of Community Relations. John had an opportunity to present on nuclear energy and its environmental impacts to Xcel Energy executives, as well as discuss renewable energy sources with St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter and the Saint Paul City Council. John also served as the point of contact for St. Paul’s North End residents as they fundraised to install alley lights to prevent crime.

As a high school junior, John is excited to start his individualized college counseling with BTC. In regards to the support that BTC has offered him, John says, “I’m very thankful to the program for guiding me these past five years, and for serving me, and hundreds of other students, at no cost.”

David Pellegrini, BTC Teaching Fellow Pays it Forward

A Roseville Area High School and St. Olaf College alum, David Pellegrini discovered Breakthrough as a freshman in college. David knew he wanted to spend his summer doing something that would make an impact, but exactly what eluded him. An older cousin, teaching in the Twin Cities, encouraged David to learn more about the Breakthrough Collaborative and consider becoming a Teaching Fellow. In David’s words, “The help and guidance from the coaches seemed very valuable and like it would be a beneficial way to spend my summer.”

David joined BTC for the summer of 2015 teaching eighth grade chemistry. He enjoyed the Teaching Fellowship so much that he returned for the summer of 2016 and taught literature in the Breakthrough Leaders Program (BLP). Teaching over two summers offered the added benefit of a longitudinal relationship with students and seeing them grow.

Now an Associate at the Boston Consulting Group, a management consulting company, David acknowledges that Breakthrough staff were helpful in providing advice and guidance as he considered options post-college. Reflecting on his experience at Breakthrough, David says, “The Teaching Fellowship was very foundational and helped me define who I am. I learned how to be confident when there is not necessarily clarity in a given situation and how to move forward, using my intuition as a guide. The skills I learned working in the classroom translate to how I approach my job today. I also improved my skills in communication, writing, and presentation. I still use the teaching techniques I learned at Breakthrough to structure my presentations.”

Since his first summer at Breakthrough, David planned to make a gift to BTC once he landed a job out of college. The impact that Breakthrough had on Teaching Fellows and students inspired him to pay it forward. “BTC is such an important program for me, and I buy into the program’s approach and vision. Donating was a very logical decision.”

For David, the most important work that Breakthrough does is getting students into college and giving them daily confidence. Breakthrough prepares students for success by “helping them find their identity and learning how to find their way.”

David plans to further his involvement with BTC through volunteerism.

Raj Beekie

Raj Beekie, Breakthrough Twin Cities student confidently pursues Ph.D. 

As a 14-year-old in 2009, Rajendra “Raj” Beekie thought of himself as an average guy from a middle-class family. “I liked to do what any normal teenager does – hang out with my friends, use social media, and sleep,” noted Raj.

Clearly, Raj’s accomplishments reflect that he was more than an average guy. In 2013, he graduated as one of the top ten students in his class from Central High School in Saint Paul, Minnesota. While in high school, Raj was a member of the Science Olympiad, Science Bowl, and Math Team.

While in high school, Raj had convinced himself that B’s were Bad and that A’s were Average. Looking at grades in that manner made it hard for him to even think about getting anything lower than an A. He was a national AP Scholar which he received for doing well on AP tests, and “surviving” Advanced Topics, then the hardest math class he had ever taken. He scored a 31 on his ACT test, placing him in the top 95th percentile nationally.

In 2017, Raj graduated Magna Cum Laude with highest honors with a degree in mathematics from the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities. That same year he co-presented research on Fréchet Differentiability in Optimal Control of the Stefan Problemat at the Joint Mathematics Meeting, the largest mathematics meeting in the world. Raj was also awarded a prestigious National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship. The Fellowship recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students who have demonstrated potential for significant achievements in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

Raj is pursuing a PhD in mathematics at New York University. He is currently studying fluid mechanics, specifically trying to construct solutions of equations that naturally arise in fluid mechanics that break classical conservation laws. This offers insight into the limits of mathematical models and may help lead to a better understanding of turbulence.

Looking back on his six-year Breakthrough Twin Cities experience and success, Raj credits the amazing BTC team. “They really inspired me to do my best. BTC helped me mature socially. I found a community of people that helped me step outside of my comfort zone,” Raj shared.

Breakthrough Twin Cities

2051 Larpenteur Ave E, Saint Paul, MN 55109, USA