Ralph’s Reflections: April 2023


The Power of Partnerships

I take great pride in Breakthrough’s strong sense of collaboration. Our external partnerships and community ties allow us to provide opportunities and exposure that greatly enrich the lives of our scholars and their families. Breakthrough consistently thrives because of the partnerships we’ve fostered and maintained.

For example, one of our longest-standing partnerships is with Open Doors Academy (ODA). ODA is a 30-year-old nonprofit that works closely with schools to provide extensive year-round, out-of-school learning. This is done through comprehensive learning programs with structured daily curricula that meet the state’s Core Academic Standards.

ODA ensures our scholars receive robust after-school and summer programming from their experienced team. Former kindergarten teacher Tiersa Sullivan has served as the ODA Program Manager at our Cliffs, Woodland Hills, and Glenville campuses for four years. She thoroughly enjoys collaborating with our educators to support our scholars. “The work that we do in partnership with Breakthrough makes a huge difference because it takes a village. I collaborate frequently with teachers at Breakthrough to help scholars overcome specific challenges and thrive,” expressed Tiersa.


Say Yes Cleveland is another organization we collaborate with. Their goal is to strengthen Cleveland’s economy, neighborhoods, and workforce over the coming generations by bringing together, mobilizing, and targeting community resources to address two barriers: postsecondary affordability and combatting the significant challenges associated with multi-generational poverty for Cleveland students.

Say Yes Cleveland provides family support specialists in four of our campuses. These specialists help remove barriers faced by our scholars and their families so they can focus on school and maximize their education.


Jacqueline Byers-Jones, a former school therapist, is the family support specialist at our Cliffs Campus. She recalled an instance when a family relocated from the west coast, “the family needed some help acclimating to our winters and culture here in Cleveland. They needed coats, boots, and other winter items.

“My role as the support specialist involved identifying resources to provide what they needed,” she explained. “I think without us, the burden would weigh much heavier on the school staff and families, which would ultimately impact our scholars.”

“The resources we help families access are like threads in a piece of fabric; you need every thread to build a full life for our kids, so scholars can focus their attention toward showing up for school and excelling in their education,” Jacqueline added.

This year we partnered with Cleveland Clinic. The world-renowned medical institution began a program that introduced a group of our 7th and 8th-grade scholars to healthcare occupations. The program exposes our scholars to healthcare fields, provides tours of the Cleveland Clinic campus, and showcases simulated patient rooms, EMS, life flight, and other hands-on activities. This program has the potential for scholars to access long-term mentorship in the healthcare field of their choice.

An 8th grader from our Willard campus expressed her excitement about the program. “I look forward to learning how medicine helps people,” she said. “This program is a good fit for me; it would be wonderful to be a young leader in my family."


When I reflect on the strong alliances we’ve developed with ODA, Say Yes Cleveland, and Cleveland Clinic, several positive outcomes are evident to me: exposure, access, and representation. Our scholars are exposed to new possibilities. They have access to new experiences and can dream and see a brighter future, inspiring them to strive for more.

By embracing these and other partnerships, we fortify our scholars and enable them to have choiceful futures. Partnerships that support our teaching and learning have the potential to transform lives.