By: Xitlali Mujica
Breakthrough Houston Teaching Fellow, SJS Summer 2022

As a young child who primarily spoke Spanish at home, my English skills were not strong. Instead of actually helping me in her classroom to read and understand the English language, my teacher sent me to summer school. Consequently, throughout the school year, I was a frustrated child, not getting the education or tools that I needed in order to succeed. I aspire to lead an educational nonprofit focused on first generation children, to change that feeling for future students. 

The turning point in my future happened while participating in Breakthrough Houston’s 2021 Summer Program, part of the Breakthrough Collaborative which is a national leader in educational equity. BTH provides academic enrichment programs using the students-teaching-students model to ensure that motivated, under-resourced rising 7th–12th grade and college students have access to excellent educational opportunities, graduate from high school on time, and thrive in college. Historically, educational leaders and advocates have considered the issue of whether to place focus on promising students or the ones in need. Breakthrough targets both. I chose to become a Teaching Fellow with Breakthrough Houston because as a first generation American, I know how difficult it can be to simultaneously exist into two different worlds. 

As I got to know my kids last summer, not only did they learn from me, but I learned from them. They were my safe space. They encouraged me to follow my dreams because the fall of 2021 and the spring of 2022 were going to be my last two semesters attending community college. My kids told me to apply to the University of Texas at Austin. I was afraid to apply, but the kids showed me that life gives you second chances and you need to take advantage of them. My first set of kids were my inspiration and they have shown me true Breakthrough love.

I returned to Breakthrough Houston this summer as an 8th grade Teaching Fellow. As I’m exploring this summer with my new set of kids, they have already captivated my heart. Not only do I get to teach new kids, but my kids from last summer have updated me on what has happened in the past academic year. All the Breakthrough kids that I have encountered have captivated my heart and brought me a step closer to becoming a bilingual educator. 

In the fall, I’ll transfer to The University of Texas at Austin to major in bilingual education with a concentration in education policy. My goal is to fully understand the needs of students and develop skills in order to lead a nonprofit that will support every student’s desire to succeed. I’ll continue my education and hope to obtain a PhD in educational leadership. 

After receiving my undergraduate degree, I’ll hone my skills and find mentors in my workplace. I’m particularly interested in developing trauma-informed teaching strategies. Fundamentals like these are the key to success of being a good teacher, and for helping a nonprofit organization’s students to thrive. Within five years of teaching, I would seek to participate as a board member of Breakthrough or a similar organization to learn the fundamentals of developing good practices for a nonprofit education organization: analyzing fundraising methods, establishing a mission, developing programming, and understanding community outreach methods to support access, diversity, and inclusion. 

Teachers often carry the burden for why the educational system is failing many kids, especially under-resourced students. Teachers are not the real problem. They work in a system under educational policies that often do not give them many options, rights, benefits, or support–most public education policy is determined by the lengthy political processes of states’ legislatures. I want to effect change now, and I’ve seen the impact of a well-organized nonprofit.

My goal is to promote student-centered policies in leading an educational program, because even though students are less than a quarter of our population, they are 100 percent of our future.

Preparing effective, skilled teachers is a defining strategy in Breakthrough Houston’s approach to closing the opportunity gap. Support this and critically needed student programs by:

Houston students need our support more than ever before. We are grateful for your partnerships in bringing equitable education and life-changing opportunities to under-resourced Houston students.