By: Jennifer Lo
Breakthrough Houston Teaching Fellow, College Bound 2023

Like any other middle school student, I did not have a clear idea of where my life would go. My English teacher at the time saw potential in my younger self that I did not recognize yet. She recommended that I apply to Breakthrough Houston, and I honestly had no understanding of the organization at that time. I remember filling out the application on my own accord, confused but eager with her support. Now, I can say that it was one of the best decisions of my life, and I will never forget the educator that changed my life forever.

The Middle School Program introduced me to a new environment, and my younger self struggled to step out of her comfort zone. Breakthrough Houston welcomed me with open arms, creating a safe space for everyone to share their stories. I grew closer to this community as time passed, making everlasting memories that I continue to look back on fondly. The organization has taught me many life lessons with its focus on the seven character strengths: zest, social intelligence, curiosity, self-control, grit, gratitude, and optimism.

I always knew I could continue to rely on Breakthrough Houston through its College Bound Program, and it was one of the most comforting thoughts to have as a first-generation student. Now, I am a College Completion Program Scholar. There are not enough words to express my utmost gratitude for these five educators and advocates who have accompanied me throughout my journey with Breakthrough Houston: Ms. Paige Linnell, Mr. Morris Nwogwugwu, Ms. Kathy Heinzerling, Ms. Kurchi Basu, and Ms. Twenewaa Adu-Oppong.

Now, serving as a College Bound Teaching Fellow this summer has been a rewarding way to return the favor to the organization that I love dearly, even though I did not imagine myself in this position when I was an office volunteer for the Middle School Program. There is so much patience and resilience necessary in the field of education, especially with adapting to and solving the challenges of virtual education. My respect for educators has grown exponentially as I get a glimpse into their career from my experiences this summer.

After being a part of the organization for years, I continue to proudly affiliate myself with Breakthrough Houston to support underserved students, as I was in their shoes before. It has come full circle for me as a former student in the Middle School Program and now as a Teaching Fellow for the College Bound Program. Breakthrough Houston is the gift of a lifetime for first-generation, low-income college students, and my passion and gratitude for this organization continue to be limitless.

Jennifer Lo is a rising junior at the University of Texas at Dallas, majoring in Accounting. She has been a Breakthrough Houston student since 2015, completing the Middle School Program and the College Bound Program. She has continued her Breakthrough journey as a College Completion Program Scholar and a Summer 2023 Teaching Fellow for the College Bound Program’s PSAT Preparation Course.

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