Monthly Archives: August 2014

Breakthrough Welcomes New Staff

As Breakthrough SJC says goodbye to former Assistant Director Bryan Boyce and AmeriCorps VISTA’s Jenna Robinson and Sandra Alvarez, the program eagerly welcomes three new staff members to start the new academic year.

Alex Serna joins Breakthrough as the new Assistant Director. He is a first-generation college student with an A.A. in Liberal Arts, B.A. in American Studies from UC Berkeley, a M.Ed. and teaching credential from UCLA. Before joining Breakthrough, Alex worked as an Academic Program Coordinator with the Youth Policy Institute, where he taught and assisted at-risk youth so they could graduate high school and attend college. He is also a father to four girls and says he is “grateful and excited to be the new Assistant Director.”

Lily Panish is the new VISTA Community Coordinator. She graduated this past March from UC Santa Cruz with a B.A. in Politics, and most recently worked as a Sales Associate at Express and a Swim Instructor with NOVA Swim School. She became interested in Education when interning in Washington, D.C. at the Spanish Education Development Center (a bilingual preschool) and hopes to eventually get a Master’s in Education or Public Policy. She “can’t wait to be a part of the San Juan and Breakthrough community” and has big plans for the after-school and summer programs.

Diana Barriga, a San Juan Capistrano native and resident, is the new VISTA Volunteer Coordinator. She recently graduated this past May and earned a B.A. in Economics and Sociology from Connecticut College. Diana is very familiar with Breakthrough SJC and St. Margaret’s Episcopal School. She attended St. Margaret’s from Preschool through Twelfth grade, she served as a Breakthrough SJC Teaching Fellow in 2012 and 2013, and she just finished her role as Dean of Students for the 2014 summer program. Diana is “extremely excited to continue her work with Breakthrough and continue giving back to the amazing students in her community.”

Breakthrough SJC looks forward to a new school year, with new programs, new students and new staff!

A Night For Celebration

Saturday, August 9th, Breakthrough San Juan Capistrano welcomed students, parents, teachers, and supporters to celebrate the end of its ninth summer program. The night began with a potluck dinner, graciously provided by parents. Celebration showcased students’ musical and performance talents with skits and singing. In addition seventh and eighth grade students  took the stage to present  what they learned this summer at Breakthrough SJC.

The highlights of the event were heartfelt yet powerful testimonials by students Eduardo Ruiz, Amy Medrano, Maria Macias and Teaching Fellow, Jose Limon. The program concluded by Director, Lorena Martinez expressing her admiration for both students and teachers and bidding farewell to three staff members: Community Outreach Coordinator Jenna Robinson, Volunteer Coordinator Sandra Alvarez, and Assistant Director Bryan Boyce.

While many tears were shed as students, teachers and staff said their good byes; the program looks forward to another exciting school year and would like to thank everyone who made the 2014 summer program a huge success!


Two High School Students Intern with UCI’s Chemical Engineering and Materials Science Lab

Breakthrough SJC rising high school senior German Guzman and rising high school junior,  Francelia Lievanos gained valuable research experience this summer interning at University of California, Irvine’s Chemical Engineering and Materials Science Lab, with Professor Mecartney and her graduate students.

Over the six-week internship, German and Francelia studied how steam affects atom mobility in technical ceramics and received hands on experience making and testing materials, and using  scanning electron microscopes. In addition, the two Breakthrough students learned about different fields of engineering and experienced firsthand what college life is like for students at UCI.

Francelia commented on her experience, “It opened my eyes to new fields I have never been exposed to. We learned about different types of engineering and I became very interested in biomedical engineering”.

Professor Mecartney was very impressed by German and Francelia! The two students wrapped up their internship by visiting the Breakthrough SJC summer program and not only presented their research to Breakthrough students but also helped with demonstrations performed by Professor Mecartney and her team of graduate students.

Fluor Corporation Sparks a Passion for Engineering among 8th Graders

Engineers from Fluor Corporation made three special visits to Breakthrough science classes this summer. Engineers not only provided students with valuable tips and tactics on their Egg Descent and Vehicle Landing Contest, but even entered into the challenge themselves!

Fluor employees, Felipe Delgado, Dwight Jackson, Vernyl Phillips, and Tanya Aguilar, introduced the Egg Drop Challenge to students, visited classrooms to assist with revisions to students’ designs, and finally participated in and judged the final Challenge among all 8th grade science classes. Eleven designs entered into the Contest, but only five survived the drop.

Students rose to the challenge of competing against Fluor employees and enjoyed learning more about the expansive field of engineering. Thank you, Fluor Corporation, for sharing your employees with us and enabling this great hands-on learning experience for Breakthrough students!

Visitors Capture the Magic of a Breakthrough Summer

Breakthrough SJC experienced record-breaking attendance and community support at this year’s Visitors’ Day event. Visitors’ Day is one of Breakthrough’s largest events of the year, in which new and long-time supporters are invited to connect with the exceptional students and teachers who make up the BTSJC family. Visitors witnessed the summer program in action and heard directly from teachers and students in two Q&A panels.

Visitors also heard from Breakthrough SJC Advisory Board member, Duraid Antone, about his support of the program and the impact it is having on the San Juan Capistrano community. “I have been here for seven years, and I know like the sky is blue that the kids of this program will be successful in life.” Visitors’ had the opportunity to observe classrooms and grasp the power of Breakthrough’s “students teaching students model” first hand.

Thank you to all who attended Visitors’ Day 2014 and helped to make the event a great success. We hope to see you next year!