Ralph’s Reflections: June 2023


Recognizing Juneteenth and Pride Month

Dear Breakthrough Staff,

At Breakthrough, we’re committed to diversity and inclusion – we want to ensure that our employees, students, and families are respected and valued. Therefore, Juneteenth and Pride Month are significant occasions of recognition for us.


Juneteenth, now a federal holiday and recognized on June 19th each year, commemorates the emancipation of Black slaves in the United States. The holiday became widespread after the murder of George Floyd. Although I’ve always known about Juneteenth, it is a holiday I never celebrated. Its significance has grown more profound for me over the past few years.

For me, Juneteenth provides an opportunity for reflection. It’s a time for Blacks in America to celebrate liberation and who we are as people. Here at Breakthrough, I try to model that for our scholars as often as I can. I feel compelled to show them how proud I am to be a Black man. I want them, regardless of their race, to always feel confident in who they are.

Pride Month provides another opportunity to reflect on liberation. The entire month of June commemorates the Stonewall Riots, which occurred at the end of June 1969. As a result, Pride events are held throughout our nation to recognize the LGBTQ community.

Reflecting on both celebrations reminds me of an encounter with Agnes Aleobua, Principal of Citizens Leadership Academy Glenville. CLA Glenville was one of the first schools I visited at the start of my tenure as CEO. Agnes welcomed me with open arms and was an inviting burst of energy. It was through Agnes’ unwavering confidence and dignity that I learned she was a lesbian. I often encounter her supportive partner Patrice at our school events.


As a Black queer woman, Agnes is an inspirational role model to many in our Breakthrough community. She explained that Breakthrough had created a welcoming environment where she had never felt shut down or excluded. As a Black woman, she has experienced several challenges and believes she has to work twice as hard as her white male counterparts to achieve success. However, she appreciates working for an organization that invites her to bring her true self to work.

“I’ve always been confident in who I am,” said Agnes. “Breakthrough has fostered a space for me to continue living proudly in my truth, and that’s important to me.”


Agnes sees Juneteenth and Pride Month as opportunities to continue providing education that addresses equity and inclusion and supports anti-racist efforts. She’s motivated to remain a beacon of light and hopes for our scholars so they feel seen and heard.

“Our scholars seeing me in this role matters; I remember one of them saying to me when I started that they had never had a Black principal; that stuck with me.”

As we celebrate Juneteenth and Pride Month, I hope we all find the space to pause and acknowledge each other. We can not be deterred in our pursuit of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Fostering safe spaces for everyone in our community, our scholars, families, and staff members - to live in their truth is vital to our continued progress and success