“I reflected on my life to try and find something I was passionate about, and I realized that while I did not know it at the time, Breakthrough has had a huge impact on my life.”
– Christopher Shimizu, Breakthrough Student Alum, Class of 2016

My name is Christopher Shimizu and I am a junior at Worcester State University where I study English and secondary education. I joined Breakthrough in 2010, the summer before my 7th grade year. When I joined Breakthrough, I didn’t know about the long-term goals the program had for us. All I knew was I had multiple friends in the program, so I decided to sign up.

Within the first week of the program I thought I made a huge mistake. I was getting more homework from my Breakthrough teachers than I was getting during the school year and on top of that, I had a difficult time learning a lot of the content, especially in math. I quickly became discouraged. I felt I was wasting my summer because I did not understand much, but I had a hard time admitting I needed help. My teachers tried pushing me – for example, they worked with me during recess to try and come up with creative ways to learn how to find the circumference of a circle and what pie is. Me being the stubborn seventh grader I was, I would not budge in my negative thinking.

This attitude carried in to my next summer. My plan was just to keep my head down, stay away from all the Breakthrough spirit, and just get through the summer and that is exactly what I tried to do, although if anyone here has ever been to a Breakthrough site during breakfast, lunch, or community meeting, you know that that is a fool’s errand. There were moments I refused to go to class and would instead sit in the hallway. One of the teachers that summer, Aurin, took notice and began talking to me about what was going on. What turned into a quick little chat about being out in the hallway and why I should be in class turned into daily chats about the many difficulties I was facing at the time outside of Breakthrough. Aurin made sure everyday she saw me to check in with me to see how I was doing. Having someone other than my mom take special interest in my education helped motivate me to become a better student.

Luckily for me, Aurin returned for another summer, and even though she wasn’t directly one of my teachers, I would still say I was closest to her. Now this is not to say I was never close with any of my other teachers, but for me, Aurin stood out because no matter how much I fought, she was right there pushing me to do better. This student-teacher relationship turned into so much more during high school. During my junior year, Breakthrough paired me with Aurin as my college access coach. Throughout 11th and 12th grade, she served as my mentor and helped me with all my college essays, my applications, and my resume. Even to this day Aurin continues to help me while I move through college.

When I first enrolled at Worcester State, I thought I wanted to major in business, but after a year of business courses I knew it wasn’t for me. I reflected on my life to try and find something I was passionate about, and I realized that while I did not know it at the time, Breakthrough has had a huge impact on my life. That is when I decided to change my major to English with a minor in secondary education. I decided I wanted to try and help students the same way Aurin helped me. My sophomore year I began volunteering at the Collegiate Success Institute, a college readiness program for high school juniors and seniors in the city of Worcester. I wanted to get more experience and so I thought, what would be better than returning to the same program that shaped me into the individual I am today. This year, I will be teaching for my second summer at Breakthrough San Juan Capistrano and I honestly could not be happier with my decision. I recently got a call from several students which started off as an attempt to prank call me but ended up being a 30-minute conversation where we talked about school and how excited we all were for the upcoming summer. I’m not exactly sure what impact I had on these students, but I do hope I have a similar impact in the same way Aurin helped me.

Years later as a teacher, Breakthrough continues to mold me into the man I am today. Thank you to Breakthrough, and thank you all for being here tonight.