breakthrough student and teacher working togetherby Josh Reimnitz, Executive Director of Breakthrough

It’s 7:13 AM on Monday, June 24, 2019.

The clapping, cheering, and occasional cartwheels can be a confusing sight on an early summer morning, but that’s how Breakthrough Twin Cities welcomes its 120 students as they step off their five buses–and they’ll be sent home with the same fanfare at the end of the day, too!

The seventh grade students on the bus that morning are starting their first day of a six-year journey with Breakthrough Twin Cities (BTC) and they are on a pathway to college.

MPA is the founding partner of Breakthrough Twin Cities and has been hosting the program since 2005. Hundreds of MPA students, parents, staff, and alumni have participated in, volunteered for, and/or have donated to Breakthrough. We are exceedingly grateful to partner with such an incredible community.

The Students on the Buses
The sleepy students who saunter off the buses that morning won’t be groggy for long. The eighth and ninth graders on the buses have already told the first-year seventh graders what to expect–energy and enthusiasm! Like, a lot of it.

Because Breakthrough focuses on equity, our programs are aimed toward wonderful, capable young people who also face systemic barriers to realizing their full potential. The students, mostly from St. Paul, enthusiastically applied to be a part of the program. All of them have demonstrated an interest in attending college and meet at least two of the five eligibility criteria:

  • will be the first in their family to graduate from college
  • of a race under-represented in college
  • qualify for free or reduced-price lunch
  • speak a language other than English at home
  • live in a single-parent household

While most students meet at least four of the criteria, there is one thing they all have in common: they’re awesome!

breakthrough student readingThe Summer Program
Students in grades 7-9 engage in academic classes in the morning and enrichment throughout the day. Each day includes everything from electives to social-emotional development to exploring their identities to good ol’ fashion fun! Unless students are on a field trip to debate bills at the Capitol or visit a nearby college, Breakthrough energy hums all summer long.

The School-Year Program
Every student in Breakthrough, grades 7-12, receives individual check-ins with coaches during the school year. They also attend Saturday Sessions once a month at MPA for additional college preparation and fun. Juniors and seniors meet with a college counselor as they prepare in earnest for college applications and acceptances.

The Secret Side of Our Mission
Breakthrough goes all out. Not only does BTC help prepare under-resourced students for college success, it also cultivates the next generation of educators. The young people cheering for the middle school students as they get off and on the buses each day are students themselves (in college or high school) who might one day lead a classroom of their own. And don’t be surprised to find an MPA student or alum leading a Breakthrough classroom. MPA’s interdisciplinary and holistic approach is aligned with Breakthrough’s aim to recruit and prepare future teachers who will make education relevant, accessible, and engaging for students of all backgrounds.

While Breakthrough is a blast to be a part of, it’s also incredibly effective. More than 99 percent of Breakthrough students graduate from high school and they are six times more likely to graduate from college than their racial and socio-economic peers. Breakthrough students in the Class of 2019 earned an average of $136,000 in college grants and scholarships, and the Class of 2020 is on pace to exceed that figure!

So when we said Breakthrough students are awesome, we weren’t blowing smoke. There is data to back it up! If you would like to learn more about Breakthrough Twin Cities, or support our mission, please visit our website or contact Executive Director Josh Reimnitz at

MPA’s Library is thrilled to be partnering with local nonprofit Breakthrough Twin Cities for this year’s Book Festival! This partnership will support Breakthrough students by providing books for their summer literature experience. Breakthrough Twin Cities offers a six-year college access program to highly motivated, yet under-resourced students and families in the Twin Cities. With a campus housed at MPA and several MPA Alumni teaching fellows, we are proud to work closely with BTC to help provide books to their students. Learn more at

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