Tuesday, May 30, 2017

How Breakthrough Manchester opened the door to opportunity

Breakthrough Manchester, a tuition-free academic enrichment program for middle school students, recently held its annual Back to Summer breakfast to celebrate the start of the upcoming season. Students who apply and are selected to participate in Breakthrough Manchester begin the program after 6th grade and spend three summers taking rigorous classes.

Once students complete their three year middle school Breakthrough commitment, they are able to continue with the tuition-free College Bound program at Southern New Hampshire University. Designed to support students in high school, the College Bound program is rolling out the supports for ninth graders this school year.

Memorial High School Senior Selina Nwikina spoke at this year's Back to Summer breakfast about her experience and the impact of Breakthrough Manchester on her life. Selina's remarks are posted here with her permission.

I have been a part of Breakthrough for five years. Quite honestly, it does not feel like that at all. It feels like just yesterday I was sitting in the Bakersville library learning about Breakthrough from Kate and Trevor, the directors at the time. I will be honest with you, from that first presentation I was not that interested. Mostly because I spent my summers at Copper Cannon Camp and playing with friends from my neighborhood. If I went to summer school then I wouldn't be able to do those things.

Then, Mrs. Mancuso, my fifth grade teacher told me it would help me become a better student, allowing me to work on my writing and excel further in math. Those are the two things that meant the most to me. And I soon began to realize that if I really wanted to become something great, I would have to work for it. Even if that meant giving up six weeks in the summer. I always loved going to school anyway, so what was six more weeks? I figured I would take the opportunity to hone in on my strengths and my weaknesses, and maybe I could be faster at math and better at writing. You see, math was easy for me but writing on the other hand not so much. In fifth grade, we started writing persuasive essays and it was challenging. I remember one time I wrote a persuasive letter to my mom begging for a cat. Until I realized it was not any different from me asking her in person, I included the normal ten pleases and the “I’ll even change its litter box.” In case you were curious, the essay did not work. Even as a fifth grader, I may not have had long term goals such as college. But I knew I wanted to be the best student I could be. And with that always in the back of mind, I worked hard on my application.

The day I found out I was accepted into Breakthrough was one of the most life changing moments in my life. After all, it led to be where I am today. Breakthrough not only paved the way for me to become one of the top students in my class but also it changed my character for the better. Being part of Breakthrough also helped me attend Phillips Exeter Summer School in 2015 on a full scholarship. My summer there was amazing. I made new friends from every corner of the world, I tried foods that I had never heard of before, and I studied strange sea creatures. That summer was one I will never forget, and I am forever grateful for the opportunity to have found myself on a level I thought I would never reach. Meanwhile, both Breakthrough and Exeter Summer School made the transition from middle to high school that much easier.

Now that I am in high school, it means so much more to me to be an outstanding student. I am taking level four and AP classes, I have two jobs, and I volunteer with my local parish. One thing I am extremely grateful to have learned from Breakthrough is time management. Otherwise, I may not have made it the past two months, which have been filled with studying for different exams, preparing for presentations, and working many hours. I got it all done but, it took a lot of energy and effort. And for that I am grateful to have a skill set that allowed me to push myself past what I thought I ever could achieve. Time management is one of the most useful skills one can apply to their education. Another concept that I still use in various situations, is “dare to be different.” That was the theme of my first Breakthrough summer in 2012. And since then, I know what makes me different from everyone around me and I embrace it everyday. After that summer, I finally understand how to answer the question “What makes you different?”

After my years at Breakthrough, I found out about another program that is very similar; UNH Upward Bound. This program for me was the best next step I could have taken. And now I am a part of two amazing educational programs that have changed my life and so many other kids just like me. One thing I do have to say is Breakthrough really did teach me that “if you believe it you can achieve it!”

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