Op-Ed

Son gets life-changing opportunity

DIGGING DEEP: Michael Zavala takes part in a Breakthrough Miami gardening project.
DIGGING DEEP: Michael Zavala takes part in a Breakthrough Miami gardening project.

My son, Michael Zavala, a sixth-grader at George W. Carver Middle School, has been a part of the Breakthrough Miami program at Ransom Everglades since the summer of 2013. Those have been some of his best summers. He comes home already anticipating the next day. Oddly, waking up early during the summer has never been a problem.

Several years ago, a co-worker referred me to the program. Breakthrough Miami associates came to George W. Carver Elementary to recruit students. Mikey was excited when he got home, and I encouraged him to apply because it helps students get into college. I want to ensure that he has a bright future. I want him to have a range of opportunities to become a good man.

The Breakthrough program has enhanced his self-confidence. He tries harder when challenged by school work. Even though he still has his moments with math, I definitely see an improvement in his effort. And his vocabulary has become more colorful.

Some of my most memorable moments have been the things Breakthrough students, staff and families do as a community, including the 5K race at St. Thomas Episcopal School, which raises money for the program, and the service project we did to plant gardens for “Health In the Hood.”

These things are as valuable as book knowledge, opportunities that are life-changing for Mikey.

I am relieved that there are resources he can go to for help with school and homework assignments. It’s not always easy to hold it together as a single mom, and the program fills a lot of gaps. With Breakthrough, my son has a safe place to go to at no cost. It helps when I work on Saturdays, when summers get demanding. It’s a great feeling knowing that he is involved in something constructive where he can enhance so many important skills.

We have had some difficulty as a family. I lived with my mother and her family for a short period. Those times were tough for Mikey, not having all of his favorite things or not being able to sleep in his own bed. Mikey found a happy place at Breakthrough. It helped him to get through challenging times.

At Breakthrough, children aren’t just improving their academics. They are learning how they learn best. Mikey has discovered his strengths, and that he learns best with hands-on activities. He knows now he can be a great student. And the lasting bonds he has built with the teachers and volunteers are invaluable.

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