by Kate Tucker
Allie Newman first learned of Breakthrough Twin Cities about the time of Y2K when she was the Director of Admission at Mounds Park Academy. At the time, Breakthrough was formulating its partnership with the school. While Allie moved on from MPA into the corporate world, she kept her pulse on what was happening with the newly formed organization and became a supporter. Several years later, Allie was asked to join the Board and is now serving in her second term.
When asked what’s kept Allie engaged over the years, she said, “I feel strongly as a person of color that I need to do my part to help close the achievement gap in MN – for my children, their friends, and for our community.” She noted that early data is showing the achievement gap is widening due to the pandemic. There’s a long road ahead, and Breakthrough can be part of the solution.
Allie also loves Breakthrough’s dual mission, where students teach students and simultaneously strive to advance the number of teachers of colors in US schools. “As Asian students, I wish my children had teachers of color who could be role models for them. My daughter had a Korean principal in elementary school, and it was such a fun connection for her and our family. In their current schools, my kids don’t have many role models of color. That was the very same for me – and I would have thought things would change over 40 years.”
Today, only 4.3% of Minnesota teachers identify as a person of color. As a Board member and supporter, Allie shared, “I’ve seen the results this program has on its’ alums and have heard firsthand what BTC graduates are doing in the world, and it’s significant. Several are changing their communities singlehandedly.”
Allie’s husband, Justin, is a middle school teacher in Eastern Carver County (ECC). Beginning in 2017, they began bringing educator friends and community influencers to Breakthrough’s annual gala. Together with those friends, Justin introduced Breakthrough to the district because they saw the program’s ability to serve its talented yet under-resourced students, which they view as a solution to help close the achievement gap. The district agreed and formed a partnership between Breakthrough and ECC. Breakthrough would open a third site in the western metro in 2020.
Not only has the ECC district provided space for the program to take place, but it’s also investing in a portion of funding to make it possible. However, Breakthrough needed funds upfront to launch the site, so in that same year, Breakthrough received more than $500,000 from the Cargill Foundation, and the first virtual cohort began amidst the pandemic. The gift from Cargill Inc., Allie’s employer, is the largest grant in the organization’s history. The expansion into Eastern Carver County is mainly due to Allie and Justin’s deeply rooted belief in helping all students unlock their achievement potential and, by doing so, create a better future for generations to come.
From the Executive Director
by Josh Reimnitz
Hello and Happy New Year!
We’re so excited to share Breakthrough Twin Cities news with you in this new monthly format! Breaking Through will spotlight our collective BTC community, serving as a window into the incredible group of students, Teaching Fellows, alumni, supporters, staff, and board who make up Breakthrough. You’ll hear stories and updates about our work, as well as insights into why BTC is needed in the Twin Cities.
Last year was challenging in many respects, but BTC was committed to learning, adapting, and growing through that difficulty. You may know we work to cultivate and reinforce strong character traits in BTC students and Teaching Fellows through our Codes for Success. We use these same Codes as a staff and, in 2020, we had to lean on a couple of our Codes for Success more than in the past; specifically, Relish Hard Work Together and Persist.
Through that hard work and persistence, I see Breakthrough Twin Cities emerging stronger than ever in 2021! We’ve all had to adapt over the last year, and BTC is taking that need to shift and using it as an opportunity to transform and, in video game speak, level up. We find new ways to communicate with our students and families and stay connected with the broader BTC community that will last beyond the pandemic. We are evaluating every aspect of our programming and organization to be a genuinely anti-racist organization that supports students and aspiring educators now while also bucking a system that’s structured to hold them back. Some of these changes will take time, while others we have already implemented.
I’m so excited for the year ahead and for you to be involved in the vital work we’re doing to level the playing field and allow remarkable students to reach their fullest potential. We’ll keep you informed through this publication and our regular e-newsletter, but if there are more ways you would like to be engaged, please don’t hesitate to reach out. We need a large community to achieve the results we’re seeking, and your involvement is essential in attaining that success.
Thank you for being involved in Breakthrough Twin Cities and its impact on the wonderful and deserving youth of our community!
Welcome Maya Ziegler
In December, Breakthrough welcomed a new Program Director to the team, Maya Zeigler. While she’s new to Breakthrough, she’s devoted her career to education and nonprofit management. Maya’s path started as a middle school KIPP student. She said, “I didn’t realize it was unique to stay connected to middle school teachers until I got to college and started realizing that was not the case for everyone. KIPP opened up a lot of opportunities that I otherwise wouldn’t have had access to, and for which I remain grateful.” These reflections set a fire in her to devote her energy to paying it forward for other students.
Throughout her career, Maya’s worn various hats, from working in a classroom as an AmeriCorps service member to creating curriculum and nonprofit program management. She’s thrilled to be bringing her experiences to Breakthrough, an organization that closely aligns with her values. Looking ahead, Maya is excited to dive into the recruitment process for Teaching Fellows and planning for Summer 2021 programming. She’s passionate about attracting teachers of color to the field and serving students. This belief stems back to her own experience serving as a Teaching Fellow for a similar organization in college. The energy of being in an intensive student-teaching-student model is unmatched to anything else she’s encountered, and she can’t wait to see it in action at Breakthrough.
On a personal note, Maya is from Philadelphia but dislikes Philly Cheese Steaks. She will, though, tell you the right places to go if that is your sort of thing. Join us for a Zoom coffee with Maya on Thursday, January 21 to have a chance to meet her yourself!