By: Mahi Tessema
Breakthrough Houston Teaching Fellow, Connect Summer 2022

In 2016, I was accepted into Breakthrough Houston as a student. Within the program, I found a community of mentors and peers that made me want to improve not only as a student, but as a person as well. Each Teaching Fellow (TF) I have had throughout Breakthrough has made some of the strongest impacts on my life. Ms. Niki taught me that it is okay to remain playful throughout adulthood. Ms. Zaria taught me to embrace and love the curly hair I was given. Ms. Selene taught me about Frank Ocean and the wonders of his music. Ms. Victoria taught me about passion and how, no matter what path I chose, the road followed should be one I wholeheartedly loved. Ms. Neomi taught me that your age is indifferent to the impact you can make on your community. Ms. Tara taught me how to be selfless and kinder to others. Mr. Logan taught me that just because I couldn’t answer every question in a certain subject, it didn’t mean it wasn’t worth learning. I could go on forever about how much I loved every BTH TF I had. The life lessons these TFs taught me, unknowingly and knowingly, have so clearly defined the person I am today. 

Becoming a Breakthrough Teaching Fellow after being a Breakthrough student is both comforting and unfamiliar at the same time. After so long of looking up to people who had that title, it is scary to now be someone with that title.

Before I even knew which site I would be teaching at, I was so worried. I didn’t know what I could possibly say to these kids that would resonate with them in the same way my TFs’ wisdom resonated with me. I wanted to make an impact on these kids and have them love the program as much as I did. I loved these kids before I even knew them.

I am now three weeks into my tenure as a BTH Teaching Fellow, and I love teaching these kids more than I thought possible. Although I’m only 17 years old, just years older than my middle schoolers, I treat these kids as my own. I have met some of the most joyful, laughter-inducing, honorable, and irreplaceable kids this summer. Seeing the growth that my kids have achieved over the course of only 21 days has eliminated my concern that I don’t have any wisdom to share with them. They know that there is at least one person in this world who believes that they will succeed. 

That is why I love Breakthrough Houston so much. No group of people or organization believed I could succeed in life until I joined the BTH community. Everything here is centered around growth. Everyone here believes you can do better than the day before, and, coming from a community where self-focus was not encouraged, it is a breath of fresh air. 

To all the Breakthrough Teaching Fellows: the work you do is important. Take it from a former Breakthrough student. Every word you say counts. Every silly conversation you have matters. While Breakthrough was a program meant to advance me further in my academic classes (which it did), when I look back on my time as a Breakthrough student, it isn’t the geometry homework or essays I wrote that I remember; it is the memories and lifelong connections I made. I truly would not trade this experience for the world.  

Mahi Tessema is a rising senior at Foster High School in Richmond, TX. She plans on majoring in Chemistry when she gets to college. She is active in her school theater, and is an avid fan of spontaneous adventures with friends. Alongside teaching chemistry this summer with BTH, she also co-teaches theater, choir, and ultimate frisbee. 

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.