Charnice Culmer

My Breakthrough experience began when my mother, a single parent of three, saw an opportunity. She pushed me and all of my siblings through the program and currently all three children are pursuing higher education with much success. 

Each day she would drop me off at Breakthrough and encourage me to do well and learn from the opportunity to grow both socially and academically. While it took some time before I broke from my shyness, Breakthrough was in fact a great opportunity that prepared me for high school and college. 

Firstly, Breakthrough helped me to develop a work ethic and study habits.  I was a member of the Small Learning Community also known as SLC 2.  Two of my teachers from my time in SLC 2 stand out to me – Tamara and Marty.  Tamara taught math and was a student from Cornell University.  I enjoyed math but found some of the algebraic concepts challenging and found difficulty at first understanding the concepts. “Practice and diligence are the only way it will become easier for you,” Tamara would often remind me.  Marty taught Writing Through Literature, also known as WTL, and was a student from Oberlin College.  Through the reading of When My Name was Keoko, Marty helped to lay the foundation of literary analysis and taught me how to connect personally with the passages.  He always encouraged us to highlight or underline what stood out to us in the reading.

Together Tamara and Marty encouraged me academically. In Tamara, I admired her strength and diligence and sought to pursue and enhance that trait as my own.  From Marty, I learned the importance of willingness to help others grow and teaching skills that were both necessary and crucial in critical analysis.

Secondly, Breakthrough helped to develop my career interests.  One of the great things about Breakthrough was the elective courses that were offered. I remember thinking about what elective course I would choose.   I had wanted the photography elective and ended up in mock trial. Not knowing much about it, I decided to give it a try and it turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life.

Amanda taught the Mock Trial elective.  Her father had been a lawyer and helped us to develop a case about a civil action lawsuit, Pat Turner vs. the Superintendent, regarding an offensive t-shirt.  I played an attorney and was able to shine in this role and even won an advocacy award.  Through this process, I realized I actually like law and advocacy and considered it as a career.  Although I have decided to pursue my Master’s Degree first, I hope to attend law school and eventually become a child advocate. 

Lastly, Breakthrough helped me to solidify my identity.  During my time in SLC 5, I had two fantastic teachers that helped me develop personally, Mari and Michaela.  Mari was a highlight of my Breakthrough career.  She was a student from Binghamton University and was a native of the Bronx, New York. She was unapologetically educated and empowered.  Michaela was a mild mannered student from Chicago attending Brown University.  As our WTL teacher that year, she helped us to develop research and writing skills and selected readings that related to us as people of color.  Together they encouraged me personally.  Mari taught me to embrace and be confident in my capability and skill set and helped me to acknowledge them.  Michaela served as a mentor and helped me see that hard work yielded opportunity by being one of the first African American females I knew to attend an Ivy League institution. Now, I myself am an African American female, attending an Ivy League institution.

Breakthrough prepared me for college through the development of work ethic and study habits, by solidifying my career interests, and more importantly by helping me identify myself.  These skills are crucial in college to allow one to distance distraction and make the most of the college experience. While further self-development is expected, having a personal foundation before arriving at on a college campus is helpful.  My wonderful teachers at Breakthrough prepared me for not only college, but high school, by being exemplary college students who possessed the traits that I would need in order to be successful. They displayed possibility and opportunity while mentoring me into future success.