Breakthrough Miami to open new site at Gulliver Preparatory

Miami Beach High sophomore Kaitlyn Almonte visits Loyola University in New Orleans during Breakthrough Miami’s college tour.
Miami Beach High sophomore Kaitlyn Almonte visits Loyola University in New Orleans during Breakthrough Miami’s college tour. Photo provided to the Miami Herald

Breakthrough Miami recently announced a new partnership with Gulliver Preparatory School that will allow the program to expand and use the school’s classrooms to offer Saturday classes and activities to public school students in the area.

“We are delighted that we are able to take this program to more students through Gulliver, and continue to close the achievement gap,” said Elissa Vanaver, CEO of Breakthrough Miami.

Vanaver said that the achievement gap is a national epidemic in which about 22 percent of low-income students get into four-year colleges compared to 60 percent or more of their high-income peers.

As a tuition-free academic program, Breakthrough Miami aims to encourage low-income students in grades 5 to 12 to graduate high school and attend college through a school year component that takes place on Saturdays and a six-week Summer Institute.

The program takes place at several sites, including Ransom Everglades, Carrollton School of the Sacred Heart, Miami Country Day, Palmer Trinity and the University of Miami.

“Our focus is the academics,” said Vanaver. “We form a relationship with students as early as middle school and coach them until high school graduation.”

This statement rings true for Kailey Almonte, a sophomore at Miami Beach High who often struggled with academics because of a lack of assistance outside the classroom.

“My mom works and has a low-income background,” said Kailey, 16. “She would try to help me as much as she could.”

As a fourth grader at Ada Merritt K-8 Center, Kailey learned about and joined Breakthrough Miami.

“I was able to take the homework I had from school and ask the program mentors for help,” Kailey said. “I began to see gratification when I received my report card, and it definitely gave my mom an ease of mind to know she could leave me in trusting hands.”

One of Kailey’s mentors throughout the program was Webber Charles, site director at Ransom Everglades School in Miami.

“Everyone has a similar goal here,” said Charles, 36. “Achieve academically, travel, and make a living when they are older.”

According to Charles, the program has three components that help students get the most out of the program:

▪ Students meet different people and become flexible toward other cultures and ethnicities

▪ They gain academic education in the summer instead of lose it, and are more prepared for the college entry process by attending the Summer Institute program

▪ Students gain experiences outside of academia such as attending concerts, college tours, basketball games, operas and ballets. “We provide students with a window that allows them to really see what they can have with this academic life,” Charles said.

Currently, Breakthrough Miami students are touring colleges, including Dillard, Xavier, Florida A&M University, Florida State University, Loyola and Tulane.

“Our students can dream because they are aware of the options that are out there,” Charles said.

The application process for the new Gulliver site, at 6575 N. Kendall Dr., is open to students that have a minimum ‘B’ average GPA and currently attend Ludlum, Rockway, Banyan, Olympia Heights and Coral Terrace Elementary schools, and South Miami and Kenwood K-8 Centers.

Applications are available at The deadline has been extended to April 15.

“Students like Kailey have a really bright future,” Charles said. “She’s a really good example of the types of results we get from our program.”

Kailey is currently the supervisor of volunteers for the Summer Institute and plans to study science at a four-year institution.

“My mom always says she wishes she had a program like this when she was younger because she sees that it helps me,” Kailey said. “Anyone who hasn’t heard of this program should be open to find out about it.”

For information, visit or call Webber Charles at 786-269-4337 or 305-460-8821.