By: Priscilla Solis
Breakthrough Houston Teaching Fellow, SJS Summer 2022

When asked what the best part of Breakthrough is, my response will always be, “the community.” However, I will confess: I never explored the full depth of my gratitude towards Breakthrough Houston and my entire support system until I found myself in a musty dorm room in College Station as an “adult” while my family drove back to Houston. Navigating the first few weeks of college, I never thought I’d be thrown back into reflection on my time with BTH, but it wasn’t until I was surrounded by students who didn’t have the same opportunity as Breakthrough that I realized just how empowering this program was… as a student.

But Breakthrough is the gift that keeps on giving, and I had much more to learn. Furthermore, it wasn’t until I completed my first summer as a Teaching Fellow – with all of the long nights and frustration over making copies– that I realized just how empowering this program was… as a future educator.

As a student, I learned that…

  • I have the support of adults who are willing to advocate for me. I arrived on my college campus comfortable speaking to professors, finding the resources I needed, and nurturing a drive to succeed. In these moments, I thought back to Mr. Morris who shouted “Solis!” and asked about my day each time he saw me, or Ms. Kurchi who bombarded my email inbox with scholarships she thought I was a good fit for. Keeping tabs with all of the adults who cared about me was the first step.
  • I have the support of peers who are endlessly caring and accepting. Although their faces might have changed and gotten older, I owe the community of students who accepted me in my entirety and for the moody pre-teen I was a great deal. Each day I spent at BTH, I saw the embodiment of each character strength: zest, curiosity, social intelligence, optimism, leadership, and more. Although they weren’t perfect, I witnessed a realistic representation of each trait I hoped to embody, and I learned that we can build towards those strengths. I am grateful that I can reflect on all of our goofy moments and the times I almost choked on my own laughter. With them, I had the space to be a child and have fun.
  • In combination, the community of adults and students have fostered a humanizing experience for underrepresented communities. I had entered the program knowing I was “college-bound,” but I lacked a substantial understanding of what that meant as a rising seventh grader. Now, I know that being a first-generation college student carries extra challenges for us to solve. However, with adults to guide us and peers who come from similar backgrounds, our strength is in numbers.

As a Teaching Fellow, I learned that…

  • I was able to return the favor. I owe my current status as a first-generation college student to the hands which have guided me, and Breakthrough lent many hands. I can be that adult for my students, and advocate for their success.
  • There is an intense amount of work behind the scenes and double the amount of moving parts. I have a newfound appreciation for my Teaching Fellows because clapping for 10+ minutes during Breakfast Step, standing in the Texas heat for the Bus Cheer, and letting a field of students pelt you with water balloons requires an unmatched amount of love, dedication, and patience.
  • Sharing that identity as a first-generation student has enabled me to be the representation for my students. My passion for education stems from my appreciation for this community and I want to build that connection for each student. They know I have lived it and they can too.

Both as a student and Teaching Fellow, I know that…

  • Breakthrough provides opportunities for excellence. Whether it be creating lesson plans or raising your hand in class, this community fosters growth and will pick you up no matter how many times you fall.
  • We are a family. Our students will wonder how their Teaching Fellows have so much energy in the morning, and our Teaching Fellows will wonder how their students managed to blossom so much in six weeks. Like a family, Breakthrough is not perfect because there is always much to learn and much to teach. However, the support system of Breakthrough is unlike any other because each person is seen, heard, and advocated for.
  • This summer felt like being a student again, and I know I’ll find that feeling again as I return.

Priscilla Solis is a rising sophomore at Texas A&M University, majoring in Wildlife & Fisheries Science and double minoring in Secondary Education & Ecology. They have been a member of Breakthrough since 2015. Since then, Tr. Priscilla has completed the Middle School Program as well as the College-Bound Program at St. John’s School, and is currently working with the College Completion Program. They have served as a Teaching Assistant with the PSAT preparation course, and this was their first summer as a Teaching Fellow. Tr. Priscilla taught 9th grade Biology, and co-taught Video Production, Photography, and Combination Outdoor Games. They enjoy hiking, camping, and tutoring elementary students during the school year. After graduation, they hope to continue advocating for underrepresented communities in the outdoors.

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