UCS Career Blog

Inside the Internship: Breakthrough Collaborative

Phoebe Weatherall
October 23rd, 2013

Phoebe Weatherall spent the summer with Breakthrough Collaborative, teaching low-income middle school students in Cambridge, MA. She appreciates this experience as one that pushed her to work harder than ever before.

I couldn’t believe I was upset. “You’re twenty, they’re twelve,” I thought, taking in a deep breath. But whatever my age, the eye-rolling and occasional whisper made me self-conscious. There was no doubt about it; I was back in middle school. But everything was a bit different this time around. There were many more crop tops; 1D had eclipsed the Jonas Brothers; and I was standing at the front of the room.

For the next eight weeks, I’d be teaching pre-algebra to eighth graders in Cambridge, MA with a program called Breakthrough Collaborative (BTC). BTC is a national organization renowned for its work in the education sector. Since its founding in 1978, Breakthrough has been committed to motivating low-income middle school students to stay on the path to college.

I first heard about Breakthrough while interning at an e-Commerce start-up the previous summer. One afternoon, all the interns met with a Senior Vice President, who told us he’d worked at the Cincinnati chapter of what was then called Summerbridge. He spoke very highly of the program, and so I made sure to look into it at the start of Second Year.

Breakthrough appealed for three reasons: its social focus, competitiveness, and potential to take me out of my comfort zone. Its social focus intrigued me, because I’m involved with an on-Grounds organization that looks at the intersection of business and social impact. As a non-profit business that’s taken an innovative approach to bridging the Achievement Gap, Breakthrough is one product of such a dynamic. In a sense, I thought of the internship as field work in social entrepreneurship; an opportunity to study the structure of the organization and the public education system.

The Princeton Review has repeatedly ranked Breakthrough a Top 10 Internship, and so it’s become a popular program that requires a stringent application process. The first part of the application is an online submission that’s due at the start of March and includes a ranking of chapter sites, three essays, and a letter of recommendation. Although every student applies through the national office, his/her top-ranked site does the initial read-over. As such, I heard directly from the Cambridge office about the second round, which required I submit a 7-10 minute clip of me teaching a lesson and cheer. Less than a week later, I completed the third and final round with a phone interview. However strenuous it might’ve been, I credit the competitiveness of Breakthrough’s application process with selecting an inspiring group of coworkers.

Finally, interning with Breakthrough appealed, because it would force me out of my comfort zone. I knew I could handle an office building, but a classroom seemed entirely foreign. So why not try something new? After all, I thought, I have the rest of my life to dress up in business casual and live out a nine-to-five. And I’m so glad I did. Breakthrough pushed and pulled me in a million directions, so that I could be both exhausted and invigorated. And after about a week, I grew to love teaching my classroom of crop-top wearing, 1D obsessed eighth graders.

If you, like Phoebe, are looking for a dynamic summer experience, talk with a career counselor about what opportunities exist. UCS holds appointments Monday through Friday. Call (434) 924-8900 to schedule one today.