In 2012, Breakthrough San Juan Capistrano was completely transformed when the program received an AmeriCorps VISTA grant. The new partnership with AmeriCorps VISTA allowed the program to double its staff and increase its impact the San Juan Capistrano community tremendously.

The first AmeriCorps VISTA’s to join the program were Jenna Robinson and Sandra Alvarez. Jenna, a recent graduate of the University of Oregon was brought on to increase the visibility of Breakthrough SJC in the San Juan community as the Community Coordinator. During her year of service Jenna was able to partner with the Boys and Girls Club to provide an ideal space for Breakthrough to host its high school tutoring sessions and she secured a partnership with Comprehensive College Prep, a premier Orange County test prep coaching and tutoring company, that generously offered Breakthrough juniors ACT and SAT prep courses at discounted price. Sandra Alvarez, Breakthrough SJC’s first ever Volunteer Coordinator and University of California, Irvine alumna was responsible for recruiting, training and managing tutors that worked with Breakthrough SJC high school students during the school year. During her year of service Sandra was able to recruit seventeen tutors from local colleges and provide over forty five tutoring sessions for Breakthrough SJC high school students.

This year, Lily Panish and Diana Barriga join Breakthrough SJC and AmeriCorps VISTA as the Community Coordinator and Volunteer Coordinator, respectively. Lily joined AmeriCorps to take action after studying Politics and learning a lot about persistent poverty in the United States. She chose Breakthrough SJC because she grew up in Orange County and wants to give back to her local community. Diana chose to volunteer with AmeriCorps because she has always been passionate about service and providing resources for those in need. Breakthrough SJC was appealing to her because she was born and raised in San Juan Capistrano and has previously volunteered in the program as a Teaching Fellow and Dean of Students. Both Lily and Diana enjoy serving as VISTA’s at Breakthrough and look forward to growing this wonderful program.

Since 1994, nearly 900,000 men and women have taken the AmeriCorps pledge to “get things done for America.” They have provided more than 1.2 billion hours of service and mobilized 4 million volunteers to “make our people safer, smarter, and healthier.” Thank you to all past, current and future AmeriCorps members that help communities throughout the country move forward!