My roots run deep in San Juan Capistrano. In the 1920s, my Grandpa Pete attended the Mission Basilica School, walking barefoot to and from school because his family could not afford shoes. He never made it past third grade. In the 1930s, my Grandpa Pete and my Abuelita (grandmother)—both members of immigrant families—worked in the fields that still stand by Marco Forster Middle School. Today, Grandpa Pete is buried in the Mission cemetery and my Abuelita still lives in Dana Point. My own mother attended Marco Forster, graduated from Dana Hills High School, and went to college. My father grew up in Santa Ana, graduated from Santa Ana High School, and went to college. Both of my parents worked hard to overcome the challenge of growing up in low-income households. In beating the odds to earn post-secondary educations, they found a way to break the cycle of poverty for their family. This is the same goal we have here at Breakthrough: to provide a support system to students and families so that they can go to college and break the cycle of poverty. My mother recently told me that she wishes Breakthrough had existed when she was a child because it would have guided her path and could have changed the trajectory for some of her peers who did not go to college.
Today, I am grateful to find myself serving as the new and fully transitioned director of Breakthrough SJC. It is an honor and a blessing to be here, where I can continue to grow my roots in a community as historical and unique as San Juan Capistrano. I have had a great summer leading up to this transition. I have learned so much from the Breakthrough team, the St. Margaret’s team, the students, the families, and all of those in our support system. It has been such a joy watching our students and our teaching fellows commit their summers to overcoming the achievement gap and accelerating toward college. I am eager to connect my experience so far here at Breakthrough with my experience as a teacher and principal in Houston, Texas. I moved to Houston after my undergraduate years at USC, I joined Teach for America, and I had the privilege of earning my MBA at Rice University. While in Houston, I fell in love with the mission of serving students and families from underserved communities.
I look forward to continuing the success that Breakthrough SJC has enjoyed in its first ten years. I think ahead to ten years from now, when we celebrate Breakthrough SJC’s 20th anniversary, and I get chills thinking about the impact we can have. In the year 2025, if our rates stay the same, we will have served over 500 students and over 300 teaching fellows. That is a critical mass of students who can end the cycle of poverty for their families and return to San Juan Capistrano to enhance the community; likewise, that is an incredible number of teachers who can influence the field of education and impact communities across the nation. I am committed to continuing our great work here at Breakthrough San Juan Capistrano, and I am excited to strengthen the roots of our students, families, and community.