By: Vincent Lai

Breakthrough Houston Teaching Fellow, HISD Summer 2021

At Breakthrough, a kudos is the ultimate way of showing our gratitude for others. It consists of a verbal expression of gratitude, followed by two claps and then a series of actions based on which kudos the person wants to give. These actions can range from simply remaining silent (the “Awkward Silence”) to an elaborate series of actions (such as the sequence of claps in the “Olé!”). My favorite kudos is called the Breakthrough Love, and the actions associated with it include a simple two-part motion: after the two claps, you form a heart with your hands and push the heart out towards the person receiving the kudos. The Breakthrough Love is my favorite kudos because it manages to capture all of my love for Breakthrough and all of the Teaching Fellows, staff, and students that I have met along the way.

Two years ago, I applied to Breakthrough mostly on a whim. After hearing about the program from a professor at Rice University, where I was an undergraduate at the time, I decided to apply. Breakthrough’s mission of supporting students from underserved communities and providing them with the tools to be successful academically and socially in school and beyond spoke to me. I didn’t expect to hear back after the initial application, but before I knew it I found myself at O-week, getting ready to dive right into the summer. I felt so out of place. Everyone else seemed to be so passionate about teaching, and at the time I had never even thought about becoming a teacher. 

Thankfully, my fears were unfounded. I loved getting to know the students, both in and out of the classroom. I loved building and nurturing the vibrant Breakthrough culture with the other teachers and staff. Even with the challenges that we faced over the summer, I found that every hurdle was an opportunity to grow and learn, both as individuals and as a Breakthrough family. I left from that summer thankful that I was able to experience Breakthrough, but also heartbroken because I thought that I would not get to see my students again. 

Two years later, here I am back at Breakthrough. So much has changed: we are all at a new campus now. A new cohort of students means that our site is even bigger than ever. Working during the COVID-19 pandemic means that many days are spent talking to little boxes on our computer screens containing our students’ faces. Despite all these changes, my love for Breakthrough remains as strong as ever, and the best thing about meeting new faces is that there are even more people to spread the love around.

When I talk about Breakthrough, it’s almost impossible to not use the word love in every other sentence. That’s because love underlies so much of our work at Breakthrough. Our love for teaching and Breakthrough’s mission is what draws us to this program. Our love for our students is what motivates us to go above and beyond each day at Breakthrough. Our love for each other is what keeps us growing and moving forward, even in the face of challenges and unexpected obstacles. 

To end off, I would love to give a kudos to everyone who reads this. Thank you for reading this far and for letting me share a piece of myself with you! For this kudos, I would like to do a Breakthrough Love. 

Breakthrough Love, on two! 1, 2, Breakthrough Love!

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