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Educational non-profit opens up shop at TechBoston Academy

Posted by Patrick Rosso  July 8, 2013 04:01 PM

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(Patrick D. Rosso/

Ricco Warden, a student with the program, and Carro Hua, a teacher with the program, cut the ceremonial ribbon Monday.

An educational non-profit that follows its students from the seventh grade to college acceptance will now call Dorchester’s TechBoston Academy home, after it cut the ribbon on its new satellite space in the public school Monday afternoon.

Breakthrough Greater Boston, which opened its Cambridge campus in 1992, works with students during the summer and after school to keep them on track and ready to succeed. With the new partnership, the program will work with the school's students and others in the area to boost the number attending four-year colleges.

“We’re trying to get kids to college, but we start young so we have a lot of time with them and the chance to change their academic trajectory,” said Elissa Spelman, executive director of the program. “Research shows that in order to have an impact on college matriculation, middle school is the time to intervene.”

The year-round, tuition-free program is part of the national Breakthrough Collaborative, which was founded in 1978 and has 38 affiliates across the United States.

The program includes after school classes during the school year and over the summer students take part in an intensive academic program that includes six days a week in the classroom. The students will add about 300 hours of academics a year on top of their normal school work and classroom time through the six year program.

“Summer learning loss is one of the key causes of the achievement gap,” Spelman said. “When we can add a tremendous number of hours to the summer that is focused on academics that makes a huge impact.”

On Monday, the program welcomed its inaugural seventh-grade class. The 35 students that stood on the steps of the school will hopefully be the first class of the Dorchester campus to head off to college. A new class will be added every year with close to 300 students eventually participating in the program.

“I’m glad they brought this to Boston,” said Tanya Wesley-White, a Dorchester resident whose son Roscoe will be taking part in the program.

“During the summer you lose the academics and this will really help keep him on track,” she added.

Others were excited that the program will help get their students thinking about their futures.

“I think it will help the kids both with mentoring and getting them thinking about college,” said Charmaine Hurley, a Dorchester resident whose son Ricco Warden will be taking part in the program.

Partnering with college students interested in teaching, the program’s participants will be taught by those not much older than them, but with lots of experience with the college life.

“He will get more out of it than just class work,” Hurley said. “It’s a way for him to learn more and see what is out there.”

Parents who enrolled their students in the program, which will eventually serve close to one-third of TechBoston, have good reason to be confident about and excited for it. Ninety-seven percent of students who complete the six-year program are accepted to four-year colleges, according to the program’s statistics.

Although the success rate is high, the program targets students who need the help, but are also willing to put in the work.

“It’s worth it,” said Anton Montgomery, a Dorchester seventh-grader enrolled in the program. “When it’s time to go to college it will look good on my record and hopefully they will accept me.”

Others said while the loss of a summer is hard, sometimes you have to make sacrifices.

“I don’t feel too bad about my summer,” said Ishaya Benson, a Dorchester seventh-grader enrolled in the program. “I think it’s going to be fun and help me advance my goals. If I work through it, there is nothing that can stop me.”

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(Patrick D. Rosso/

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