Senior America Lopez teaches her seventh-grade English literature class.

America Lopez, ’16, reflects on perks of Breakthrough’s college counseling program

(Photo used by permission of Adolfo Mercado)
Senior America Lopez teaches her seventh-grade English literature class.

Due to the termination of SCDS’s partnership with Breakthrough, current Breakthrough students no longer receive college counseling from the program. America Lopez, ‘16, was one of the last students to take advantage of the program. Lopez attends UC Merced and plans on majoring in biology.

Q: How did Breakthrough make you more aware of colleges? 

A: All my life I just thought I would go to Sac State because it was close by. But then I saw so many better options for me.

In the summer program, our advisers and teachers were high-school and college students, so just the exposure of having these teachers around made me realize that there were so many colleges out there besides Sac State and UC Davis.

College of the Day (when teachers present about their colleges) also helped give me all the facts about a college and open up my options.

The Word of the Day taught us about college things. Like one day a word would be “undergraduate” or “FAFSA” (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), and that’s how I found out in seventh grade that there was a program dedicated to helping low-income students.

Q: How did the program help you in applying to colleges?

A: Financial aid would be the biggest. (Program coordinator Ying Lo-Khang and former executive director Adolfo Mercado) made sure I had all my fee waivers so I could cover all of my college app expenses. My fees for all UCs were waived. Breakthrough really showed me all the financial resources I had, so I learned that money shouldn’t be a barrier for me to attend college.

I remember going to Adolfo’s office and looking at all the financial aid packets from the schools that had accepted me. We talked about what would be best for my family and what my preferences were. That one-on-one meeting was a really good way for me to look at what was the best option for me college-wise.

Another would be help with my personal statement. I would go to (college counselor Jane) Bauman for help, but for a second opinion, I would talk to Ying or Adolfo.

Q: How did they critique your statement?

A: Breakthrough would focus directly on me as a person because they have seen me transition from middle school to high school.

Adolfo wrote me a lot of recommendations, which really helped me as well. He wrote about me not only as a Country Day student but also as a Breakthrough student.

Q: What will former Breakthrough students lose without the program? 

A: They’re going to miss having mentors Ying and Adolfo, who have seen them for all these years personally and academically. That’s really going to affect them. College counselors at Country Day are very good about fixing mistakes and fixing factual errors, but Ying and Adolfo really knew you.

And Breakthrough also focused on careers and life after college. On Career Day, the eighth-grade students would dress up professionally and go to law firms or the Sacramento Bee or other businesses. They got exposure to different kinds of careers, and from then on, they would know a place that was dedicated to their interests.

Q: Did Breakthrough influence your college decision?

A: The UCs in general are very popular among Breakthrough students, so they were often talked about. I think that Breakthrough was more focused on trying to get students into the UC system instead of a community college or a state school.

Q: Did Breakthrough influence your major choice or interests?

A: I’ve always known that I wanted to be a pediatrician. They guided me and helped me find a path. They talked about my interests and my classes and presented other majors. They would tell me to take specific classes to become a bio major.

By Sonja Hansen

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