Friday, July 10, 2015

Closing the Gap

Post Written By: Abi Nixon
Year: Senior
Major(s): Middle Childhood-Early Adolescent Education
Minor(s): General Science

"Here's a fun fact.  90 percent of students who complete the Breakthrough program go on to successfully enroll in college.  90 percent.  It doesn't happen overnight, but with the right commitment-- it's a life changing experience that sets a course towards a truly bright future.  Most importantly, it's fun! And fun is good!" 
Breakthrough Twin Cities

These are all the students and faculty of Breakthrough Twin Cities-Mounds Park! 

Often times during my education classes at UW-L, we engaged in discussions about how to close the growing achievement gap.  We talked about how we, as educators, can catch the students who are often overlooked and pushed through a system that is failing them.  During my first couple of weeks teaching my Breakthrough students,  I have seen and heard what it looks like for an education program to work and truly put under-resourced youth on a path to college success.

These are some girls from "Red College" during College Bowl!

Here are some snippets of things I have learned at Breakthrough that really do put under-resourced students on track to jump the gap.  First, it always helps to dance in the hallways to class.  At Breakthrough, we blast music during passing time and both teachers and students break out their best moves!  Secondly, it really helps students when they have teachers who constantly uphold high expectations.  Every night, Breakthrough students receive BooYah (It also helps to call homework BooYah!) in all of their classes, and they are expected to complete it by the next class.  If students do not complete their BooYah, they have to go to Detour (another Breakthrough word for a study hall) instead of going to Yo-Time (It also helps to name recess Yo-Time!).   Detour is not a bad thing.  It simply helps students understand and develop the homework skills that will lead them to success in high school and college.  However, probably the most important thing I have seen that really closes the gap is having teachers who truly care and invest 110 percent of themselves to their students.  I have seen that you cannot simply write off a student just because they have given up on themselves.  It just takes one teacher to show a student that they have immense talents and skills.   Telling a student that you believe they can do hard assignments really can change their outlook on their own education.  These are just a few of the things that I have observed during my time at Breakthrough that really seem to change the outcome of a student's educational journey and are all things that I want to continue to implement in my classroom in the future.


This is my American Sign Language class that I teach for elective!  They are a great bunch of students!
During the past couple weeks, I have seen dramatic changes in my students.  One student recently told one of my fellow co-workers that he used to hate science but now it is his favorite class.  All I can tell my future fellow educators is this: you matter.  The late nights you spend lesson planning, grading BooYah, and worrying about your students is worth it.  Developing strong relationships with your students will always multiply ten-fold and taking the extra minute just might alter that student's entire outlook on life.

My American Sign Language class is making a picture dictionary for their final project.  This was one of my favorite pictures.  Two girls using their hands to sign 'friend'.

If you are interested in experiencing Twin Cities Breakthrough in action, feel free to come to a Visitors Day! Information about Visitors Day can be found at this web address: