My teachers at Breakthrough Schools always told me education was vital to my life, and pledged to do everything in their power so that each and every student could and would graduate with at least a bachelor’s degree from college.
The teachers were so set on this goal that they even named our graduating classes by the year we would graduate from college (I am “Class of 2019”).
One of the very first things I tell people when they ask me about my urban education experience is this story.
When I was in eighth grade, I would stay after school with the kids in detention, just to help them with their homework. Well, one day I was helping a student with her reading homework, and she was having a difficult time reading the passage to me. After the detention session, I went to the teacher and asked, “Why can’t this student read this passage?” The teacher replied that most kids in urban areas are two grades below their expected reading level.
This indeed knocked the socks right off of me. Why was there such an education gap present in Cleveland? Why did students and parents choose a Breakthrough School over other area schools? Why did I wake up at 4:30 a.m. every morning just so I could catch public transportation to get to school on time? What made attending a Breakthrough School so different? And the answer was clear…Teachers.
The Breakthrough teachers always put in more than they had to, and definitely supported us students in ways you could never find in any other school. We were taught it is cool to be smart. It was okay to spend at least two hours a night on homework, and then go outside to play. It was okay to think about the future—which college prep high school would be the best for us, what our dreams are, and how we should pursue them. It was totally acceptable to read in our spare time, on the bus, and even when we were at the family dinner table. Anywhere!
Because in order for children like us to make it somewhere, we had to love learning and be determined to succeed, even when the rest of the world expected us to fail. I was no exception. Because of the motivation and push instilled into my very being by the wonderful teachers I had at Breakthrough, I am currently a first-year college student at Cleveland State University, with a full tuition scholarship through the Honors College, one of the most competitive programs on campus.
I plan to pursue education, whether that be in teaching or law to ensure there is a change in the educational system in urban school districts. Or I might even just finish what Breakthrough Schools has started in Cleveland. If it weren’t for all the hard work and dedication put into giving me a good educational experience at such a young age, I am 100 percent certain I would not be the person I am today, and the person I wish to be in the future.