Monthly Archives: July 2015

How my roots shaped my path: a letter from the new director

My roots run deep in San Juan Capistrano. In the 1920s, my Grandpa Pete attended the Mission Basilica School, walking barefoot to and from school because his family could not afford shoes. He never made it past third grade. In the 1930s, my Grandpa Pete and my Abuelita (grandmother)—both members of immigrant families—worked in the fields that still stand by Marco Forster Middle School. Today, Grandpa Pete is buried in the Mission cemetery and my Abuelita still lives in Dana Point. My own mother attended Marco Forster, graduated from Dana Hills High School, and went to college. My father grew up in Santa Ana, graduated from Santa Ana High School, and went to college. Both of my parents worked hard to overcome the challenge of growing up in low-income households. In beating the odds to earn post-secondary educations, they found a way to break the cycle of poverty for their family. This is the same goal we have here at Breakthrough: to provide a support system to students and families so that they can go to college and break the cycle of poverty. My mother recently told me that she wishes Breakthrough had existed when she was a child because it would have guided her path and could have changed the trajectory for some of her peers who did not go to college.

Today, I am grateful to find myself serving as the new and fully transitioned director of Breakthrough SJC. It is an honor and a blessing to be here, where I can continue to grow my roots in a community as historical and unique as San Juan Capistrano. I have had a great summer leading up to this transition. I have learned so much from the Breakthrough team, the St. Margaret’s team, the students, the families, and all of those in our support system. It has been such a joy watching our students and our teaching fellows commit their summers to overcoming the achievement gap and accelerating toward college. I am eager to connect my experience so far here at Breakthrough with my experience as a teacher and principal in Houston, Texas. I moved to Houston after my undergraduate years at USC, I joined Teach for America, and I had the privilege of earning my MBA at Rice University. While in Houston, I fell in love with the mission of serving students and families from underserved communities.

I look forward to continuing the success that Breakthrough SJC has enjoyed in its first ten years. I think ahead to ten years from now, when we celebrate Breakthrough SJC’s 20th anniversary, and I get chills thinking about the impact we can have. In the year 2025, if our rates stay the same, we will have served over 500 students and over 300 teaching fellows. That is a critical mass of students who can end the cycle of poverty for their families and return to San Juan Capistrano to enhance the community; likewise, that is an incredible number of teachers who can influence the field of education and impact communities across the nation. I am committed to continuing our great work here at Breakthrough San Juan Capistrano, and I am excited to strengthen the roots of our students, families, and community.

Thank you,


The Capistrano Dispatch highlights the 10th summer of BTSJC

For the second year in a row, Breakthrough SJC was featured on the cover of The Capistrano Dispatch. The article discusses how the program has expanded over 10 years, including serving 232 local students and training 141 teachers. Former Breakthrough student and rising sophomore at the University of San Francisco, Raul Navarro, and outgoing Director, Lorena Martinez, were profiled in the story and shared their personal histories with Breakthrough SJC.

Click here for the full story in The Capistrano Dispatch

2015 Capistrano Dispatch_Page_1

Students explore career paths

Last week for Career Day, students explored careers that they can consider pursuing after college graduation. Career Day is an annual BTSJC event where we encourage students to dress up as the career they aspire to and we welcome guest speakers from varying careers to speak to our students. This year, BTSJC welcomed five guest speakers: lawyers Jason Velez and Scott McDonald from 1Law, ER doctor Bill Honigman from Kaiser, engineer Kenneth Chen from Fluor, and reporter Norberto Santana from Voice of OC.

Students broke up into small groups to hear presentations from the five different guest speakers. All guest speakers touched on their educational backgrounds and discussed the details of their careers.  Norberto Santana, reporter for the Voice of OC, spoke on his struggles as a first-generation college student and English language learner. One piece of advice he had for students was, “Do what you are passionate about, find what your calling is, that’s three fourths of it.” Thank you to all of the presenters for speaking about your careers and inspiring our students!