Our Team

Ashleandra Opoku, Manager of Student Services (Boston)

B.A. Peace and Conflict Studies, Colgate University 

Ashleandra (She/her/hers) joined the Breakthrough Greater Boston team in 2020. She has been in the education space in Boston for the past 3 years. She first served as a History Teacher at Roxbury Prep High School and then as Education Associate at Discovering Justice, where she coordinated and facilitated civically engaged field trips for K-8 students across Massachusetts. As the Manager of Student Services in Boston, she oversees all family engagement, student recruitment/ admissions, and student advocacy in the Boston area.

In her free time Ashleandra enjoys writing, reading books, buying plants and rewatching her favorite episodes of Bob’s Burgers.

Email: aopoku@btgbmail.org

Emma Samler, Director of Development and Partnerships

Emma Samler


B.S. in Communications from Ithaca College

Emma joined Breakthrough Greater Boston in 2018.  As Director of Development and Partnerships, Emma oversees Breakthrough’s fundraising efforts, as well as manages communications and events. Prior to joining Breakthrough, Emma was the Director of Public Engagement for Facing History and Ourselves, where she worked for over nine years.

Her favorite Breakthrough moment so far, was the attending the 2018 Breakthrough Gala and watching the students on stage sharing their own Breakthrough stories with over 400 guests!

Email: esamler@btgbmail.org

Jennifer Stange, Director of Operations

B.S. in Business Administration: Finance, Northeastern University
M.Ed. in Education Policy and Management, Harvard Graduate School of Education

Jennifer returned to Breakthrough Greater Boston in 2020. As the Director of Operations, Jennifer supports BTGB programs and general operations by overseeing financial management, human resources, informational technology, and other administrative duties. Prior to joining Breakthrough, Jennifer was the Vice President of Shared Services at the EcoTarium (Worcester, MA) and the founding Director of Operations at Brooke Charter School East Boston.

When not at Breakthrough, Jennifer spends time with her family and dog enjoying the outdoors.


Email: jstange@btgbmail.org

Lauren Hurley, Early High School Program Manager (Cambridge)

Lauren Hurley


B.A. in Psychology, Grinnell College

Lauren first became involved with Breakthrough as a Teaching Fellow at Breakthrough Norfolk Academy during the summer of 2017. She joined Breakthrough Greater Boston in 2019 as a FAO Schwarz Fellow. In her current role as Early High School Program Manager, Lauren oversees programming, supports, and services for all 9th and 10th graders at our Cambridge campus. 
In her free time, Lauren enjoys playing and coaching soccer. You’re also likely to find her biking all around the greater Boston area. 

Email: lhurley@btgbmail.org

Serena Salgado, FAO Schwarz Fellow

B.A. in Anthropology and Global Health, Northwestern University

Serena joined Breakthrough Greater Boston in 2020 as a FAO Schwarz Fellow. As the College Success and Alumni Support Fellow Serena works with recent graduates to provide support at the college level and promote engagement amongst the student and teacher alumni community. Before she came to Breakthrough she supported college leaders from 40 schools across the country as a Leadership Development Intern at QuestBridge and supported college freshman as a Peer Adviser at Northwestern.

Outside of work, Serena spends her time reading celebrity memoirs and trying to cook through her newest cookbook.

Email: ssalgado@btgbmail.org

Amee Naik, Managing Director of College Access and Success


B.A. in Psychology, Washington University in St. Louis, M.A. in Child and Adolescent Development, Tufts University

Amee joined Breakthrough Greater Boston in 2009. As the Senior Director of High School Programs, Amee oversees all aspects of BTGB’s 9th-12th grade work at our Cambridge and Dorchester campuses to ensure that all students receive the support and resources needed to help them apply for — and be ready for — college. Prior to joining Breakthrough, Amee was an Assistant Director of Undergraduate Admissions at Washington University in St. Louis.

Amee has amassed quite a few favorite memories during her time at Breakthrough — everything from seeing student alums return to Breakthrough as Teaching Fellows to indulging her love for trivia by playing Jeopardy after school with Breakthrough high school students (and staff).Email: anaik@btgbmail.org

Gabi Rivero, Manager of Student Services (Somerville)

B.A. Latin American and Latino Studies, Brandeis University

Gabi (she/her/hers) first got involved with Breakthrough Greater Boston as a Summer Teaching Fellow at the Somerville site in 2019. Being from Somerville, and not wanting to leave the Breakthrough family, she was excited to return as the Manager of Student Services in Somerville.  In this role, she oversees all student advocacy, family engagement, and recruitment and admissions work.

In her free time, Gabi loves hanging out with family, watching past performances from Dancing With the Stars on YouTube, and eating Brazilian desserts.

Email: grivero@btgbmail.org

Jennie McDonald-Brown, Managing Director of Student Services

Jennie McDonald-Brown


B.A.in African-American Studies and English, Rollins College; M.S.W., Boston College Graduate School of Social Work;M.Ed., Harvard Graduate School of Education

Jennie originally joined Breakthrough Greater Boston in 2007 as a Program Intern. She spent four years at Breakthrough before leaving for graduate school. After completing the School Leadership Program at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, she became the Founding Assistant Principal at the Dudley Street Neighborhood Charter School in Roxbury. After four years at Dudley Street, Jennie transitioned to the Taylor Elementary School in Mattapan where she continued in the role of Assistant Principal. She rejoined the BTGB team in 2017 to lead the expansion into Somerville. As the Somerville Site Director, Jennie oversees all aspects of Breakthrough’s third campus. One of Jennie’s favorite Breakthrough memories is watching the 6th graders her team recruited back in 2008 and 2009 stand in front of the classroom as Teaching Fellows in 2017.Outside of Breakthrough, Jennie spends time cooking and mastering nuanced character voices during story time with her son.Email: jmcdonaldbrown@btgbmail.org

Paola Cisneros Lau, Director of Curriculum and Instruction

B.A. in Sociology from Boston College and M.A. in Science Education from Relay Graduate School of Education

Paola joined the Breakthrough Greater Boston team in 2021 as the Director of Curriculum and Instruction at the Cambridge campus. As the DCI, Paola works with our Teaching Fellows and Instructional Coaches to ensure that we are providing our students with high-quality academic instruction. Before Breakthrough, Paola primarily worked as a science teacher in Brooklyn, New York and the greater Boston area. 

Outside of work, Paola enjoys spending time with family and friends, caring for her new puppy, reading, and cooking. 

Email: pcisneroslau@btgbmail.org 

Shoko Fox, Senior Director of Curriculum and Instruction

Shoko Fox


B.A. in Political Science and International Studies, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Shoko first became involved with the Breakthrough Collaborative as a teacher at Breakthrough Manchester in the summers of 2006 and 2007. Her experience there led her to pursue a career in education, first at the Teacher Residency program at the MATCH School in Boston, and later as a 7th grade teacher at KIPP DC, a public charter school in Washington DC, where she taught math and science for four years. She is thrilled to be a part of the Breakthrough family again as the Director of Curriculum and Instruction. In this role, Shoko oversees academic programming for our 7th-9th grade students and our Teacher Training Program. She ensures that all students benefit from rigorous, engaging curriculum and effective, differentiated instruction while our teachers are provided the best possible introduction to the field of education.

Outside of Breakthrough, Shoko enjoys cooking, traveling, and taking long walks to explore Boston with her husband and dog.

Email: sfox@btgbmail.org

Elissa Spelman, Executive Director

Elissa Spelman


B.S. in Elementary and Special Education, Boston College; M.Ed., Harvard Graduate School of Education

Elissa first joined Breakthrough Greater Boston as a Board Member, working actively on the Strategic Planning and Program Committees. She became the Executive Director in 2009 and has since set the vision and guided Breakthrough’s strategic growth into Boston and Somerville. Prior to joining Breakthrough, Elissa was the first Director of the Wellington Management Foundation, an organization dedicated to supporting education programs for low-income youth, including some of the affiliate sites of the Breakthrough Collaborative. Elissa has broad experience in the field of education and has also worked with nonprofits focused on foster care, adoption and domestic violence. Elissa began her career as a third grade teacher at the Neighborhood House Charter School in Dorchester, MA and has taught in a variety of settings.

When not busy at Breakthrough, Elissa spends time with family and friends, enjoys food of all kinds, and volunteers regularly. Her favorite Breakthrough memory is watching our inaugural class of students in Boston fall in love with the Breakthrough traditions, culture, and spirit.

Email: espelman@btgbmail.org

Ibrahim Youm, Operations Associate

B.S. in Economics and Accounting, Northeastern University
Ibra (he/him/his) joined the Breakthrough Greater Boston team in 2020 through Northeastern University’s co-op program. As Operations Associate, Ibra provides remote support to the Operations team with finance, human resources, and technology undertakings while he completes his final semester of college.
Outside of Breakthrough, Ibra enjoys spending his time listening to podcasts, playing board/card games with friends, and staying active however he can.

Email: iyoum@btgbmail.org

Krysten Fernandez, Director of College Access Programs

Photo coming soon!
B.A., Williams College and Graduate School, Harvard Divinity School
Krysten (she/her/hers) is the Director of College Access Programs at Breakthrough. She is a passionate educator and advisor committed to offering holistic support to young people. She has experience teaching as an ESL instructor at language institutes across Boston, at Brookline High School and as an adjunct professor at Endicott College. She also supported program design, evaluation, and DEI training at Summer Search, a youth development non-profit organization in both Boston and Oakland.
Krysten is thrilled to be a part of the Breakthrough team and enjoys connecting with students and families.

Email: kfernandez@btgbmail.org

Paulina Murton, Managing Director of Curriculum and Instruction

Paulina Murton


B.A. in American Literature, Middlebury College; M.A.T., Brown University

Paulina joined Breakthrough Greater Boston in 2014. As Senior Director of Middle School Programs, Paulina oversees Breakthrough’s academic programming for 7th and 8th grade students at our Cambridge and Dorchester campuses, ensuring that students develop a love for learning as well as the skills necessary to be successful in college and beyond. She also supports Breakthrough’s Teacher Training program, working to ensure our young teachers are prepared and inspired to enter the field of education. Prior to joining the Breakthrough Greater Boston team, Paulina worked as a director at Breakthrough Austin as well as a high school English teacher.

Paulina’s favorite Breakthrough memories often center around the amazing end of summer celebration event — the student work showcase, the testimonials, the cheers, the proud families and the clear bond between students and Teaching Fellows make it an unforgettable night each summer!

Email: pmurton@btgbmail.org

Tiye Cort Odima, Director of Curriculum and Instruction (Boston)

Tiye Cort


M.A.T. in Secondary Education, Emmanuel College, M. Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction, The University of Texas at Austin

Tiye first became involved with the Breakthrough Collaborative as a university field supervisor at Breakthrough Austin in the summer of 2018. Tiye has taught high school and university-level English and literacy courses in Boston, MA, Dublin, NH, and Austin, TX. There, she mentored, advised, and assessed teaching fellows during their first classroom experiences working with middle school students. Following that summer and after completing her graduate coursework, Tiye relocated home to Boston as an adjunct professor of English at Bunker Hill Community College and Emmanuel College. As the Boston campus Director of Curriculum and Instruction, Tiye oversees all aspects of teaching and learning for our middle school students over the summer and throughout the school year. She works closely with Teaching Fellows and Instructional Coaches to ensure that students receive high-quality curriculum and classroom instruction. Outside of the office, Tiye is the founder and global editor-in-chief of Feminessay, the premier writing, storytelling, and creative destination for Black women to share their literary works with a global audience. Tiye also serves on the Young Professionals Board for Scholar Athletes. Her free time is spent playing with her dog (Arthur), writing, reading, painting, and traveling to different places around the world.Email: tcort@btgbmail.org