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Breakthrough returns with Working Group reintroducing long-time program, now fiscally independent of school

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Adam Dean
The Breakthrough Working Group – Faith Galati (new executive director), Michael Covey (former Breakthrough mentor teacher), Toran Brown, ’82, (former president of the Board of Trustees), Sue Nellis (former Breakthrough mentor teacher and current high-school history teacher), Laura Steele Monahan (former director of Breakthrough and current middle-school teacher), and Richard Mancina, ‘73 – meet at Covey’s house on Feb. 17.

When it was announced in August that Country Day would terminate its financial support for Breakthrough Sacramento (BSAC), many people thought it was the end of the year-round, tuition-free college preparation program for under-served and highly motivated students, which has been at SCDS since 1994.

But now, six months later, BSAC is back with a new executive director, Faith Galati, and program manager, Amber Busby – and more than $385,000 in the bank.

Galati – mother of Aidan, ‘16, and Madison, ‘14 – said the first task of the Breakthrough Working Group (created shortly after BSAC was shut down) was to get on solid financial footing.

“Going forward, the success (of BSAC) and keeping Breakthrough Sacramento operating is going to be our diversifying the source of our funding, and that (is) a key part of my position now as executive director,” Galati said.

Now the Foundation for California Community Colleges (FCCC) sponsors BSAC and will provide services such as accounting, handling purchases and lending its human resources and infrastructure.

And the Sacramento Region Community Foundation (SRCF) will act as a conduit to accept and process all Breakthrough donations.

Busby, the new program manager, is currently the operations manager at College Track Sacramento, a program that works with students from under-served communities from ninth grade to college graduation. She will start working full-time at BSAC in early March.

“(Busby is) a wonderful young woman,” history teacher Sue Nellis, a member of the Working Group, said.

“She is poised, passionate; she seemed like the perfect fit.”

Adolfo Mercado, former executive director of BSAC, is now a consultant for BSAC. The Working Group is also in touch with Ying Lo-Khang, former BSAC program coordinator for the school.

The Working Group plans to continue the summer program (which Mercado and Lo-Khang used to run) on the SCDS campus in the summer of 2017.

There will be 36 rising seventh graders, more than 30 rising eighth graders (18 who are returning from last year) and 24 rising ninth graders.

“Once the program ended in August, (last year’s rising seventh graders) didn’t get the full benefit of coming and meeting with Breakthrough for tutors and special activities and events throughout the year,” Galati said.

The Working Group is currently accepting applications for high-school and college-student teaching fellows for the summer. The last day to apply is Thursday, Feb. 23.

Adam Dean
Faith Galati looks at her notes during the meeting. She was announced as the new executive director of Breakthrough Sacramento on Feb. 13.

And some of the mentor teachers (professional educators who help the teachers during the summer program) are recruiting rising seventh graders from the Sacramento City Unified School District, Laura Steele Monahan, a middle-school math teacher and a member of the Working Group, said.

She said there will also be new outreach into the San Joaquin School District.

Interviews with students and teachers will be done either over the phone, at a local coffee shop or on the SCDS campus.

But BSAC’s office space is no longer at Country Day but instead at Encina High School, which has offered free space to the Working Group.

Nellis said she is optimistic about the program and the progress that has been made in a short time.

“Sure, there have been huge hurdles to overcome because we started from scratch after the program was closed,” she said.

“But so many people have come forward and been instrumental in getting things up and running again.”

Galati agreed, saying that one of the main reasons BSAC was able to come back was because of the BSAC community’s strength and desire.

When the Working Group first gathered, the members had to examine whether BSAC was still needed in the community and if it could be brought back, Galati said.

“We found that BSAC is unique in both whom it serves and how it serves,” she said.

Unlike other local organizations, which focus on remedial educational services for high-school students and operate predominantly during the school year, BSAC serves academically motivated youth from under-resourced schools and also provides mentorship to aspiring teachers, Galati said.

Ninety-six percent of BSAC graduates go on to college, and 94 percent of them are the first in their families to do so.

These reasons have helped BSAC raise over $385,000 after the Working Group started with no money, no office, no employees and no fiscal sponsors.

“(Members of the community) all reached into their pockets, and they all volunteered,” Galati said.

“And here we are, back in business.”

By Allison Zhang

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A Sacramento Country Day School Newspaper
Breakthrough returns with Working Group reintroducing long-time program, now fiscally independent of school