The national group recruits high-achieving college graduates and professionals who commit to teaching at high-need schools for two years. The goal: close achievement gaps.
Rachel Faust, a Teach for America alum, has continued to teach at Van E. Blanton Elementary. “It changed the way that I want to make an impact. I’m passionate about education,” says Faust, 24, who won $100,000 for her school with a moving letter to the Ellen DeGeneres talk show.
Budget: $6.7 million in 2012, including $3.4 million from foundations and grants, $1.7 million in public money (mainly a federal Race to the Top grant) and $1.3 million from individual donors.
Impact: At Holmes Elementary, where it has worked for six years, Teach for America found the passing rate for fifth graders who had TFA instructors was 83 percent compared with 26 percent for other fifth graders.
Breakthrough Miami recruits highly motivated students from public schools for an intensive, long-term program designed to ensure they graduate high school and attend college.
Candidates face two or more risk factors for missing those marks: qualifying for free or reduced-price lunches, being a minority, being the first in the family to attend college, learning English as a second language and/or growing up in a single-parent household.
About 300 students in fourth grade filled out the college-like application last cycle. Some 150 students were accepted. The program runs from fifth to 12th grade. Started in the early 1990s as Summer Bridge, it has worked with nearly 2,000 students.
Students take part in intensive summer workshops and Saturday sessions during the school year plus additional mentoring, tutoring and field trips.
“We’re working with students that are highly motivated and we don’t want them to lose that motivation,” says Lauren Kellner, the site director at Ransom Everglades School, one of five private schools that donate space and resources to Breakthrough.
The group’s second mission is to inspire young people to work in education. Student teachers, coached by master teachers, lead the summer program. Top high school and college students are recruited from public and private schools to be intern teachers.
Elissa Vanaver, director of strategic development, says the challenges facing urban schools are formidable. “They’re trying to do a lot with a little, and their burden is great.” She says the greatest need at Breakthrough is “for the community to recognize the long-term value of investing in these bright students.”
Budget: $1.6 million, with 46 percent from foundations, 14 percent from corporations, 25 percent from the Children’s Trust and 15 percent from individual donors.
Impact: In 2011-2012, 72 percent of graduating Breakthrough seniors entered four-year colleges, compared with 44 percent of similar students, according to an analysis by the University of Miami.
Its estimated that in six years, 60 percent of jobs in Florida will require a college education, but only 42 percent of adult residents will have a degree. College Summit, a national group founded 18 years ago, is working to close that gap.
This year, College Summit will serve 14,000 South Florida students at 11 high schools in Dade and two in Broward.
“Far too many academically capable, low-income students are not going to college,” says Raquel Figueroa, regional program manager. “Many have the ability to be the first in their family to have a degree but they lack the resources.”
College Summit trains student leaders, who then run campaigns at their schools centered around college applications, federal student aid and school choice. The goal is to create a sustainable program that a school can continue.
Malherbe Felix, who was raised by a single mom in a Creole-speaking house, says participating in the program at North Miami Beach Senior High turned college from a fantasy into reality.
Before visiting Nova Southeastern University, Felix says, he questioned if he was bright enough for college. “In high school you go through the FCAT. It took me a third try to pass. It brought down my self-esteem.”
Now he returns from Florida State University over the summer to be an alumni leader coordinator for the program. “It inspired me. I just want to keep on inspiring others.”
Budget: $910,000, with 25 percent in federal school improvement grant money in Miami-Dade and a separate grant in Broward. Foundation support provides the rest of the funding.
Impact: Last school year, 75 percent of seniors at College Summit schools completed at least one college application, 78 percent took the SAT or ACT and 53 percent completed financial aid paperwork.