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Education, the advancement of girls, justice.

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Breakthrough Silicon Valley
December 31, 2010

This nonprofit - which now goes by the name Breakthrough Silicon Valley - is part of the Breakthrough Collective. It has been in existence about six years. I am both a donor to, and a volunteer with, Breakthrough Silicon Valley. The goal of the organization is to support high potential, low income students onto the college track. About 180 students are served in the San Jose area each year, currently 7th and 8th graders, though there are plans to expand the program through high school. Most of the students will be the first in their families to go to college. The majority are people of color. About 60% are girls. During the school year the emphasis in the program is on math, while the summer school branches out into social studies, science, and other fields.

One of the neat features of the program is that it grows teachers. During the school year, most of the tutoring is provided by senior high school and community college students. During the six week summer program, this is supplemented by teachers who are students at four year colleges, including places like Stanford, Berkeley, and Princeton. These student teachers are mentored by professional teachers. The majority of the young teachers develop a love for teaching. a better understanding of what it involves, and an intention to go into teaching as a profession. Importantly, the majority of them - some 70% - are also people of color.

Breakthrough Silicon Valley does a great job getting the kids through 8th grade algebra, far surpassing the results of the school district as a whole.

They are a small but energetic group with ambitions to replicate the program in other appropriate locations in the San Francisco Bay Area. The ED is Latino, as are two of the other staff; while the fourth member of staff is an African American who attended Breakthrough in San Francisco before going on to Stanford.

The Great!

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

meeting the students on a number of occasions and hearing first hand how their confidence level has increased with their academic work, and how they regard the Breakthrough staff as a second family, always there to support them in acheiving their ambitions.

Ways to make it better...

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

want to see it more engaged with other local nonprofits that work with a similar population in high schools.

MY ROLE:
Donor & I have helped BSV create its newsletter, introduce more gender specific material/events into the program, and generally with development. .

Reading Partners
November 21, 2010

I have been volunteering with Reading Partners at an elementary school in Mountain View for the past three years. It matches adult volunteer tutors with children who are about a grade behind in their reading skills. Most of the children served are English language learners. It has a well thought through curriculum, combining books and worksheets, with a lot of supporting material in the reading center so tutors can mix things up, using games, flash cards, books, white boards for writing, and so on. Younger children are typically worked on a basic reading course, from alphabet to phonics, while the younger children are working on comprehension. The program does not believe that being able simply to read the words is enough. Children learn to retell stories, identify characters/settings, pick out story morals and so on. One weakness is that the center directors typically change every year because they are drawn from Americorps. That said, the center directors seem to get good support from the organization and are very helpful in suggesting new approaches with the kids.

The Great!

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

seeing the children I have tutored gain in skill and confidence in their reading in English.

Ways to make it better...

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

have more continuity with the center directors.

MY ROLE:
Volunteer & Volunteer as a literacy tutor.