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SECOND FAMILY Andrew Duong, a junior at St. John’s School, says Breakthrough Houston helped him grow as a person, student and, now, teacher. (Photo: Eric Hang)
I was 13 years old in my mom’s car on the way to St. John’s School at 7:45 a.m. in mid-June. I asked her again: “Why are you making me go to school in the summer?” As we entered the gate to the school, there was a sign up on the building with the words “Breakthrough Houston.” I didn’t know what was in store.
I was greeted by energetic teachers who couldn’t have been older than 24, going crazy with these coordinated cheers. Surprisingly, the students were all excited too. I was confused and questioned why these kids were so pumped up to be in a cafeteria when they could be swimming or sleeping. I found out the answer soon enough.
Breakthrough Houston (BTH) helps underserved students in the Houston area, meaning students who may not have the best academic resources at their respective schools. While the academic courses were rigorous, there were just-fun aspects of BTH that made it all worth it. We enjoyed trips to go bowling, camping or volunteering. A middle school student at the time, I remember these being everybody’s favorite days.
The teachers would try to implement character strengths into our everyday lives, such as zest, curiosity, grit, gratitude, etc. After three years in the middle school summer program, some of those traits have been sewn in my brain. These have allowed me to grow as a person and role model for younger generations. As the years went by and new students and teachers kept rolling in, I realized time doesn’t wait for you.
I’ve always thought of Breakthrough as my second family, a place where I felt safe and could be myself. The program also helped me get into St. John’s School, the best high school for me. I could never thank BTH enough for that.
Now I’m a junior and teach middle school students at Breakthrough’s school-year program on occasional Saturdays. This is my way of giving back. I’ve been teaching for two years and don’t plan to stop anytime soon.
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