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Breakthrough News

November 2016

Alexa Mayorga 5 4

Alexa sports an eager smile and a passion for trying new things. And though she’s just a few months into 7th grade at Peter Burnett Middle School in San Jose, she has a clear vision for her future. One day, she hopes to pursue a career, as she describes it, “helping people in difficult situations,” but first, she’s going to college. Even at a young age, Alexa understands that a college degree has the potential to transform her life – and the first step in the journey begins at Breakthrough. As a member of our newest cohort, she says, “When I got into Breakthrough, I knew it was a door opening for me!”

Alexa enjoys experimenting, tinkering, and collaborating with her peers. “I love finding out how things work,” she reports. That’s one reason STEM projects are among her favorite Breakthrough activities. She recalls a recent team challenge to construct a catapult, her voice filled with excitement. “Everyone shares their ideas, and maybe someone says something that helps you think about it in another way. Together, it becomes an amazing idea.”

Already Alexa feels the impact of her Breakthrough experience. “I was really shy at first. Now I raise my hand. And when I have trouble, I ask for help. Breakthrough’s really encouraging me.”

At home, Alexa’s parents are 100 percent behind her dreams. Neither had the opportunity to finish school in their native Mexico. “They want me to have a brighter future than they had,” Alexa explains.

For a hard-working 12-year-old, the challenges ahead are still hard to imagine, yet Alexa understands that the support she receives at Breakthrough will be crucial. “If you need extra help, Breakthrough offers it. They’ll help me choose the right college and help me get in.” Plus, she sees how Breakthrough’s approach translates directly to her personal journey: “Breakthrough teachers and graduates have been through the same struggles I’ve been through. When I look at them, I think, if they got through it, I can too!”

Alexa is filled with optimism as she looks ahead. “I want to be someone that changes the world,” she says proudly. At Breakthrough Silicon Valley, our mission is to help students like Alexa spread their wings and do just that. Your generous support makes it all possible. Thank you!


Brian Tomlinson 5

This fall, Breakthrough Silicon Valley welcomed Bryan Tomlinson in the newly created role of College Readiness Manager. Bryan began his career as a high school science teacher before earning an M.A. from Stanford’s Graduate School of Education. Bryan brings broad expertise as well as enthusiasm in abundance to his work and, as a self-described goof, a healthy dose of fun that students adore.


Recently, Bryan sat down with Breakthrough News editor, Ann Smith, to talk about his first months at Breakthrough. 

AS: It’s great having you on the team! Can you describe your role as College Readiness Manager and what you look forward to most in the coming months? 

BT: It’s great to be here! In my role, I provide academic support, and college and career counseling to Breakthrough’s 9th and 10th grade students. I will be designing and leading monthly workshops for both grades, and helping to plan and implement some of our bigger events, such as the 9th grade college field trip and 10th grade career exploration day. What I am most excited about is the chance to hold one-on-one meetings with freshmen and sophomores. For me, these meetings represent an opportunity to know our students at a personal level, and gain insights I can use to support them towards their long term goals. 

AS: What do you find most inspiring about your work at Breakthrough so far? 

BT: I am inspired by the passion that Breakthrough students and my colleagues bring to their work. Every single member of our staff is willing to go above and beyond to provide educational opportunities for Breakthrough students. The students are equally passionate about their own work, displaying a level of engagement that you rarely see in high school students. I don’t know if the “passion bug” passed from the students to the staff, or vice versa, but either way we've all caught it. And it’s wonderful. 

AS: You began your career as a high school science teacher. How has that experience prepared you for your work at Breakthrough? 

BT: The three years I spent in the classroom taught me so much, but above all else I discovered the importance of listening and the power of empathy. Although I believe that young people thrive off consistency and structure, and I try to infuse those elements into my work, I know that an educator’s greatest skill is their ability to build relationships with students. 

AS: One thing we’ve definitely noticed is the way you inject a bit of fun into your approach. For those who haven't met you, can you describe what I’m talking about? 

BT: Well, for starters, I’m a huge Bay Area sports fan, and, on any given day, students might see me sporting a Warriors bow tie or an admittedly loud Giants World Series sweater – maybe both. I love pop culture trivia and video games, and I own an R2-D2 lunchbox. I think students can relate, and that helps build trust and open communication. 

AS: Speaking of our students, what are your first impressions? 

BT: For me it comes down to one word: “drive.” Across my one-on-one meetings, I have seen such a strong sense of purpose and drive within Breakthrough students. Our students are supremely committed to their personal goals. I have never met a group of young people who are so self-aware, and so adept at articulating their ideas on what success is and how it is achieved.

Giving Tuesday v1 2

'Tis the Season for Giving

Give the gift of opportunity this season! When shopping online on, designate Breakthrough Silicon Valley as your AmazonSmile charity of choice and give the gift of college access to an under-served student in our community. Then, after the bustle of Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday is over, please save room for #GivingTuesday on November 29th. Every bit of your generosity ensures that we can support our students on the road towards their college dreams!

Volunteer Opportunities

Volunteering is a great way to join the Breakthrough family and get involved! Sign up here to help with any of the events listed below. If these dates don't work with your schedule, stay tuned to the next issue of Breakthrough News for information about more upcoming volunteer opportunities.

College Applications Support

It's college application season and Breakthrough's seniors are busily preparing their personal statements and supporting materials. Join us to review students' applications before submission to the UC system.

Saturday, November 19, 9 am - noon, Hoover Middle School, 1635 Park Ave, San Jose

Student Application Prep 

Breakthrough recruits motivated 6th graders from San Jose Unified and Franklin McKinley School Districts, and hundreds of prospective Breakthrough students will apply for 120 spots in the program this year. Help us prepare application packets for prospective students ahead of our busy recruitment season. 

Week of November 14 – 18 - Hoover Middle School, 1635 Park Avenue, San Jose

Middle School Community Building Party 

At Breakthrough, we want our students to develop relationships with each other as part of the support network that will sustain them on their path to and through college. Join us in throwing a “game night" community building party where students will be put into mixed groups and work together in a variety of fun game stations. Help us set up and run stations, and create a fun and successful event for our students. 

Friday, December 9, 3 – 6:30 pm - Hoover Middle School, 1635 Park Avenue, San Jose. 

Student Application Reading Party Host

Host a gathering at your home to help review new Breakthrough student applications and admit the Class of 2023!

Week of March 27 - 31, 2017

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Breakthrough Silicon Valley
1635 Park Avenue
San Jose, CA 95126
United States

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