All posts by Jessica Jaramillo

Students Visit College Campuses

This past week, seventh, eighth, and ninth grade students participated in college field trips. Seventh and eighth grades visited Occidental College while ninth grade visited Loyola Marymount University.

Students and teaching fellows started the morning with a tour of the campuses where they learned about the admissions process, average GPAs, and fun facts about the school. They were also told what the school offers in terms of majors, clubs, and resources for underserved students.

After school tours, they split off into groups and competed in a scavenger hunt challenge where they were given nothing but a map to explore the campus. The hunt featured finding and speaking with a professor and students, finding the admissions office, and figuring out where the college newspapers were distributed.

The students and teaching fellows left the campuses with valuable knowledge about how to apply and the requirements for attending both colleges. A big thank you to Loyola Marymount University and Neighborhood Partnerships Program at Occidental College for showing our students around campus.

Visitors’ Day Offers a Look into the Breakthrough Summer Program

Last Tuesday, Breakthrough supporters and community members attended Visitors’ Day, an opportunity for the public to join Breakthrough for an insider’s look into our summer program and to meet this summer’s cohort of 90 students and 20 teaching fellows.

The morning kicked off with program updates and what we bring to the community: academic support for underserved students so that they can go to college, break the cycle of poverty in their families, and positively affect their community. Teaching fellows and students led the visitors in a morning cheer and recited the Breakthrough affirmation, a tradition that is followed each morning during the summer school program.

Next, visitors gathered to hear from our student, teaching fellow, and Breakthrough parent panels. The students shared some emotional stories and one student spoke about how her brother’s death affected her at an early age. According to Sarah, a community member who works at UCI, “I really enjoyed hearing from the students and teachers and am extremely impressed by the structure and offerings of Breakthrough. I hope to become more involved in the future.”

Thank you to everyone who continues to support our students as they work towards their dreams of attending college and thank you to everyone who joined us for Visitors’ Day.

Breakthrough Students Participate in UCI’s FABcamp

Breakthrough students Angie and Ulises recently attended UCI’s FABcamp on a scholarship provided by St. Margaret’s. According to Director of Academic Innovations, Leyla De Silva Riley, “The particular program the students are in is a hybrid of both APPcamp and FABcamp. APPcamp is intended to introduce middle school students to computer science and FABcamp focuses on engineering and fabrication.”

Under the direction of FABcamp employees, Ulises created a sound app by downloading sounds onto an iPad and placing the sounds in separate icons. Angie used various shapes and sizes in order to create her very own maze app on the computer. In addition to creating their own apps, both students participated in making hover crafts out of vacuums and large air bags.

Thank you FABcamp, UCI, and St. Margaret’s for giving our students a wonderful opportunity to participate in an intellectually challenging and innovating experience.

Breakthrough Celebrates College Bound Program and Class of 2016

Breakthrough SJC’s College Bound program provides  year round tutoring, academic field trips, multiple outings through partnerships, and continuous support for our high school students. Families, students, and staff celebrated students and their accomplishments with awards and a family style buffet during College Bound Celebration.

The night started out with words of encouragement from Director Victor Cota to our now graduated seniors who will be attending their first year of college this fall. After dinner, Assistant Director Alex Serna spoke about College Bound highlights including the mentor program, field trips, tutoring hours, and junior retreat. Families cheered and clapped as students were presented with awards for academic achievement, academic improvement, and commitment. Along with students, four sets of parents were chosen for the “Above and Beyond Parent Award” for their dedication to the program and constant willingness to help.

Guest speaker and Breakthrough alumna Cinthia Muniz gave a touching speech about her first year at UC Merced. She gave several words of advice to the class of 2016 including, “You may face some difficult times throughout college, but Breakthrough will still be there for you.” Breakthrough SJC truly is a family and we are proud of each and every student that has graduated since the first class graduated in 2012.

The celebration concluded with picture frames and group pictures of the graduates with their caps and gowns- the last of which will happen until they have their caps and gowns at college graduation. Congratulations to Angelo Macedo, Brandon Hernandez, Coral Ramos, Francelia Lievanos, Javier Villegas, Laura Tellez, Luis Almanza, Maribel Castanon, Mariel Diaz, Pedro Sanchez, Roberto Santana, Rocio Alarcon, Vanessa Rodriguez, Edrian Ochoa, Angel Menchaca, and Maritza Garcia. Remember that the Breakthrough family will always be here to lend a helping hand and words of encouragement.

Ricardo’s Place Spring Fundraiser is a Success

We recently had our first spring fundraiser at Ricardo’s Place in San Juan Capistrano. Ricardo Beas, the owner of Ricardo’s Place, has been a supporter of the Breakthrough organization for quite some time. The idea of helping students in need and eliminating the achievement gap that affects our students are very important to him and he generously gives to many other local organizations as well.

Ricardo has been donating food for the past few years for the Late Night Breakthrough event where students and teachers spend one final evening together on the last day of summer. In the end, 24 families came out to Ricardo’s over the five day span of our spring fundraiser. 25% of each bill was given to Breakthrough to help our students as they strive to attend a four year college.

Thank you to everyone who came out to support us for the spring fundraiser and a huge thank you to Ricardo Beas and his staff for organizing the fundraiser and for supporting our mission!

Tartan Support Group Dinner Celebrates Graduating Seniors

St. Margaret’s students and families recently gathered to celebrate our four seniors that are part of the Tartan Support Group. Our four seniors Luis Almanza, Denise Garcia, Priscilla Garcia, and Francelia Lievanos are all remarkable young adults who have accomplished so much during their academic career. In the fall, Luis will head to St. Olaf University, Denise to USC, Priscilla to the University of San Diego, and Franci to Pitzer College.

The night kicked off with a welcome from Upper School Principal Tony Jordan who spoke about the fine accomplishments of our seniors and all the good they will do in the community. Each senior was given a tribute by both their college counselor and a rising senior. The emotional tributes highlighted the students’ journeys at St. Margaret’s and Breakthrough.

A moving speech about surviving college was given by Nohemi Moctezuma, class of 2010 St. Margaret’s alumna and first generation college student. She spoke about the hardships that come along with being a first generation student and working multiple jobs to support herself through college. Nohemi concluded her speech with the encouraging statement, “You can accomplish anything you set your mind to.” Head of School Will Moseley congratulated our seniors and closed out the night.

The Tartan Support Group is designed to support first generation students who attend St. Margaret’s Episcopal School. Breakthrough provides an added layer of support for those students during the school year. At the celebration, we also welcomed seven new students to the Tartan Support Group for the 2016-2017 school y ear.

Thank you to everyone who came out to give a friendly farewell to our four Tartan Support Group seniors.

Breakthrough Students Embark on Mammal Cruise

Breakthrough was recently sponsored by the Croul Family Foundation through the Adopt-A-Class program at the Ocean Institute. Saturday afternoon, Breakthrough students met up at the Ocean Institute in Dana Point for a marine mammal cruise. Joining us on the cruise was Dan Stetson, former Ocean Institute President and current Executive Director at The Nicholas Endowment.

The Adopt-A-Class program was established in 2001 and has served 10,000 underserved students in the 2015-2016 school year. Headed by Adopt-A-Class Manager Shira Greenbaum, students saw plenty of ocean life and were able to get some hands-on experience in taking and viewing samples under a microscope. According to Shira, “when [the Ocean Institute] started having sponsorship classes, it was great to see how excited the students were and for them to experience things for the first time.”

During the cruise, the students spotted a blue whale en route to Alaska swimming up from Baja California! They also saw a pod of hundreds of dolphins, sea lions, and various birds. The friendly staff at the Ocean Institute helped our students take samples of the sea floor and plankton while informing them on the various species of ocean animals and the importance of keeping our oceans clean.

Thank you to the Ocean Institute, the Croul Family Foundation, and The Nicholas Endowment for your generosity and support.

Breakthrough Students Receive Scholarship from Black and Latino Men Read


We are excited to announce that two of our very own Breakthrough SJC students have received scholarships from Black and Latino Men Read, a program that encourages young men surrounding Los Angeles to read. Entrants for the scholarship were required to write an essay about a book that impacted them in some way.

Victor Chavez, a freshman at San  Juan Hills High School won first prize at $500 and chose the book Me & Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews. According to Victor, the book written about a man helping a girl who has cancer, “inspired me to help others and made me realize that some people are less fortunate and we need to help them.” Uriel Macias, also a freshman at San Juan Hills High School won third prize at $175 after reading and writing about Legend by Marie Lu. Both Victor and Uriel will be saving the scholarship money for college.

Thank you Black and Latino Men Read for encouraging young, male students to read. Congratulations to Victor and Uriel. Click here to read an article on the scholarship program published in the Los Angeles Times.

Breakthrough Participates in St. Margaret’s Day of Service

St. Margaret’s staff came together to give back to the community during St. Margaret’s Day of Service. Each staff member was given the option to choose from a handful of nonprofit organizations to volunteer with for the day. Breakthrough SJC joined in on the fun and was selected as one of the various Day of Service organizations. With finals just around the corner for Breakthrough SJC alumni now attending college, creating care packages seemed like the perfect way to spend our time.

Ten people from different St. Margaret’s departments gathered in the Upper School administration office to offer their day towards helping the alumni. In the morning, half of the team split up to shop for snacks, school related items, and feel good trinkets while the other half stayed back to print out some motivational quotes and decorate greeting cards and boxes. With everyone’s amazing team effort, Breakthrough SJC was able to send out 28 care packages to students at universities that include St. Olaf College, UC Davis, Claremont McKenna College, and Pitzer College.

We have been sponsored by St. Margaret’s for 10 years now and continue to be thankful for its generosity and continuous support. Thank you Amy Warren, Bryan Sullivan, Christee McCarthy, Elizabeth Cheney, Carol Keith, Andrea Chou, and Dallas Clemmons for donating your time and energy to our students. The care packages are already having a tremendous impact on our alumni as they finish finals.

Breakthrough Attends “Midori & The Planets” at The Segerstrom Center

Breakthrough SJC and Kinoshita Elementary School students recently attended the latest Pacific Symphony concert at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts through the Heartstrings program. The night kicked off with fun in the Segerstrom photo booth where students were able to take pictures with various planets of their choice.

Once all of Breakthrough was seated, all became quiet and the symphony started. Along with classics such as Clair de Lune, each musical piece depicted a different planet in our solar system. The students were in awe and fully captivated as the music flowed on. One Kinoshita student even said, “I’ve heard some of these songs before.”

We always enjoy opportunities to expose our students to the arts. A big thank you to Mary Hawkes and Rachel Schlesinger from Heartstrings for the generous ticket and transportation donation. We can’t wait to be back again!