Breakthrough Kent Denver
"Breakthrough is different because it’s not like a typical school, classes are fun and it pushes us outside of our comfort zone by introducing us to things we’re not used to. For example, this summer every student was expected to get up in front of the community at some point either to present or perform something. Even though it can be scary, getting out of your comfort zone is something you have to do in order to grow.”
- Nachi Mason, GALS Middle School Student
The mission of Breakthrough Kent Denver is two-fold: first, to increase the educational and social opportunities of motivated, financially under-resourced, middle and high school students through a quality year-round program, and second, to motivate and train talented college-aged students for careers in education. This year, we celebrate 25 years that Breakthrough continues to impact the lives of students from Denver and Englewood Public Schools and future educators nationwide.
As an organization, BKD tackles the two greatest challenges in education; closing the achievement gap for under-resourced students and addressing the national teacher shortage. Breakthrough places a strong emphasis on academics by delivering intensive and rigorous curriculum in math, literacy, writing, and science. Simultaneously, we focus on providing programming to enhance leadership and social emotional skills.
We are proud to say that since 1995, Breakthrough Kent Denver has served over 2,600 Denver and Englewood Public School students, 1,218 volunteers, and has provided high-quality teaching opportunities to over 690 college-aged students! For the eighth consecutive year, 100% of Breakthrough seniors graduated from high school, and in 2019 89% matriculated to college. Our goal is that 100% of our students graduate from top performing high schools and 100% go onto college, and that we train effective teachers and create education advocates.
"I’d never taught a class before my first summer with Breakthrough, so the first two weeks of our training was crucial to my growth. We have four teaching practice lessons, which simulate a class and then we get feedback from our peers and from our Master Teachers. I felt so much more confident going into the classroom with our kids, I don’t know what I would have done without our training weeks. As a returner in my second summer, I was able to focus on my lessons and also connect with my students in an intentional and profound way. The best way I can describe this program is that everyone is here to grow. From students to teachers, we’re working every day to improve who we are and Breakthrough provides us the space to do that.”
- Kyle Paradis, University of South Carolina-Columbia
Breakthrough operates as five distinct and completely free programs: the Summer Program (rising 7th-9th graders), the Saturday School Program (7th-10th graders), the High School Program (8th-10th graders), College Bound (11th-12th graders) and Teacher Training Program (college students who are aspiring educators)..
The Summer Program begins the Breakthrough student experience and creates a community of future-focused peers. It aims to prevent the academic summer slide and provides rising 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th graders with rigorous instruction in math, science, reading, and writing while simultaneously providing leadership opportunities and social-emotional growth. Breakthrough recruits 6th graders from DPS and EPS. Specifically, Breakthrough seeks students who are highly motivated, strive to graduate from college, and are financially under-resourced.
During their first three Breakthrough summers, students receive programming for six weeks, Monday through Friday. Students take four core classes: math, science, reading, and writing, as well as elective courses of their choosing. Students are given daily homework assignments in their core classes (Monday through Thursday). Academics are balanced with group activities to establish a strong community, where relationship-building and personal accountability are vital to achievement.
The Summer Program creates a community of young learners encouraged to experience success, failure, and develop the skills of goal-setting, self-advocacy, and taking ownership of one’s community. The program’s focus is on maintaining academic engagement, preventing the summer slide, and providing exposure to coursework aligned to the upcoming academic school year. The primary impact goal is that 80% of students maintain or increase their score on their post assessments in the subjects of reading, writing, math, and science.
The Saturday School Program aims to provide current 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th graders with enrichment opportunities as well as the space to reengage with the Breakthrough community during the school year. During each Saturday School, Breakthrough exposes students to a different nontraditional, academic topic. These topics include Social Justice, Global Awareness, Health and Wellness, Gratitude and Mindfulness, Business and Financial Literacy, Medical Student for a Day, Sessions are often enhanced through partnerships with external organizations or professionals in the related field. In addition, during the school year, the Breakthrough team serves as a liaison between Breakthrough students and the faculty and administration of DPS and EPS.
The High School Program ensures that the impact achieved during middle school is continued and that Breakthrough students and their families are empowered to make informed decisions about their high school selection. The High School Program also aims to ensure that students feel academically and socially supported during their first two years of high school. It includes a four-session School Choice seminar for rising 8th graders and their parents, a workshop to review Breakthrough’s Ultimate Resource Guide covering Denver Public Schools, Englewood Public Schools, and area independent schools. Then as the students move into the 9th and 10th grades, they participate in more academically rigorous Saturday School sessions and a three-week Sophomore Summer program to ensure that they remain committed to, and prepared for college. 10th grade students also receive academic support as they transition into the College Bound Program.
The College Bound Program ensures that all students who complete Breakthrough’s three-year commitment in middle school remain on the path to college. The College Bound Program provides current 11th and 12th graders with enrichment opportunities specifically geared towards high school graduation and college matriculation. It also provides students with the opportunity to continue building positive, supportive relationships within the Breakthrough community. Participants benefit from one-on-one college counseling, admissions test prep, a five-day college application bootcamp, and their college matriculation celebration. Impact indicators include: 100% of students graduating from high school, and 100% applying and 90% matriculating to a two-year or four-year post-secondary institution.
Breakthrough’s Teacher Training Program provides undergraduate students (Teaching Fellows) with hands-on teaching experience and encourages them to pursue multiple pathways towards careers in education. Breakthrough recruits Teaching Fellows from all over the country, who can and often do return for multiple summers. The Teacher Training Program consists of a nine-week professional development program that overlaps with the Summer Program. It includes a two-week orientation, six-weeks of instruction within the Summer Program, and Wrap-Up Week. The role of a Breakthrough Teaching Fellow is robust, with six main areas of focus: preparation, classroom instruction, classroom management, feedback and implementation, community presence, and professionalism. Impact goals for the Teacher Training Program are 80% or more of graduating Fellows pursuing a career in education, and 100% agreed that their Breakthrough experience informed their understanding of the education system and invigorated them to advocate for it.
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To find out more about options for supporting Breakthrough Kent Denver, including our endowment, please contact Sarah Dutcher, Executive Director of Breakthrough Kent Denver, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Breakthrough Kent Denver has a wonderful staff of teaching fellows and volunteers, and their work wouldn't be possible without the four full-time staff members who work tirelessly throughout the year.
"I am amazed how much student and volunteers can grow over the course of a summer!"
As Breakthrough Kent Denver's Program Director, Ms. Brewer helps recruit and mentor Breakthrough students, teachers and volunteers. She also created the program's college readiness program.
Ms. Brewer is a Denver native and has been with Breakthrough since her first summer as a student in 2002. Before joining Breakthrough's full time staff in 2012, she spent six summers interning with the program as a math teacher and community events coordinator.
“When you support and empower students to believe in themselves—especially students who historically have been told their potential is so limited—it creates such a dynamic and transformative community. That community is what makes me love Breakthrough. We cultivate spaces to grow for anyone connected to the program.”
Jhasmyne Cooper-Moore was introduced to the Breakthrough Kent Denver community in 2019 as a 7th-grade dean and now continues her transformative work as Breakthrough's Communications and Program Coordinator.
A Colorado native, Ms. Cooper-Moore attended Denver Public Schools starting in elementary school and is a proud alumna of George Washington High School.
"I love watching young people become passionate about new things!"
A strong believer that every student deserves access to a quality education, Ms. Dutcher brings passion and focus to her role as Executive Director of Breakthrough Kent Denver. This unique program provides year-round academic opportunities to public middle school students while encouraging and training future teachers.
Ms. Dutcher appreciates Kent Denver's key role in supporting and providing a home for Breakthrough. "Together we are creating a safe and inspiring space for Breakthrough students to grow and achieve, while supporting the next generation of amazing teachers," she says.
Prior to becoming Breakthrough Kent Denver's executive director, Ms. Dutcher worked in international development.
"For me, there's nothing more fulfilling than working with young people—especially our wonderful Breakthrough students. I love to watch as they reach for their dreams, and am grateful to be able to work in a space that not only fosters their growth as independent, ambitious and creative young adults, but my growth as an educator as well."
After serving as a teaching fellow for Breakthrough Kent Denver in 2018, Parker Groves rejoined the program this year as College Bound Coordinator. In his new role, Mr. Groves provides college-bound support for Breakthrough’s incredible students and families.