“I’m committed, I mean it. Breakthrough is in our schedule now. It’s school, work, Breakthrough. It’s a part of what we are going to do every single year.”

Lesley Harper is a mom who keeps her kids’ growth top of mind – it is made quickly apparent in any conversation with her. Breakthrough is a resource that became ingrained into her family’s schedule after she first heard about the program – from a similarly engaged parent.

“My coworker told me about Breakthrough,” she remembers. “She always kept me in the loop, she’s that active parent and she worked really hard to keep her son really involved. She was so impressed. She told me how much her son bonded with the Teaching Fellows, and how he was so happy to be a part of everything he was exposed to.”

Lesley’s daughter, Reagan, was 12 years old at the time. She is 15 now, and the last three years she has been embracing Breakthrough.

Through clubs.
And college tours.
And Super Saturdays.
And Culture Nights.
And pitching business ideas.
And performing improv routines.
And taking cooking classes.
And visiting radio stations.
And writing slam poetry.
Reagan has been taking advantage of all the opportunities Breakthrough offers its Scholars.


Confidence and exposure for scholars

“I really, really, really want them to have all the opportunities in the world. And these are things that I would never think to expose them to. I would never think of some of the things that they’ve had access to,” says Lesley, getting a little misty-eyed. “I’m tearing up, but it’s just the truth, and I’m really grateful for the program.”

When talking to Reagan and Lesley about Breakthrough, there is a recurring theme of building confidence. It was the primary goal Lesley had for her daughter when she signed Reagan up for her first year with Breakthrough.

“I definitely think Breakthrough has had an impact on me being more open and more confident,” says Reagan, who recently served as a keynote speaker at Breakthrough’s ten year anniversary event. “Because back in 2020, if I saw myself speaking at the Ten Year event, I don’t even know how I would react. To be able to be up there in front of all those people…I would have never been able to do that.”

Growth through mountain biking


Confidence is built in surprising places at Breakthrough, and for Reagan, one of those places was at Mountain Biking Club.

Her mom remembers Reagan’s initial hesitancy toward mountain biking. “At first she was very reluctant, and I think that reluctance was not that she wasn’t open to doing it. It was just so far out of what we probably would have done,” Lesley says. “By the end, she was looking forward to going every time.”

“At first I wasn’t confident in what I was doing,” Reagan adds, remembering the first day of mountain biking. “But everybody got together, and we were all helping each other out. We were connecting with each other – It made me more confident, and I was thinking, ‘I can do something by myself.’”

Lesley agrees and sees how even mountain biking connects to her daughter’s growth. “You may be riding a bike, but there may be a situation where you may get knocked down doing something else, and it helps build that strength in you. Just knowing, ‘Okay I fell off. But I can get back on and do it again. I have people around me that are supporting me,’” she says. “I think that is one thing they have learned from Breakthrough – the importance of a unit, of a family.”


Breakthrough connecting families beyond programs

Now that Reagan is in high school, she took her Breakthrough involvement one step further by becoming a summer intern. Reagan and her mom can laugh while remembering a day when Reagan made a small mistake on the job, leading to a learning moment.

“It was a day that was frustrating for her, but she had to figure out how to work through it. We could play it back and talk about it at home. I appreciate those moments because it requires communication. It requires critical thinking. It requires self-regulation. It requires teamwork,” says Lesley.

And those mother-daughter conversations after a Breakthrough experience are not only common but sometimes the highlight of Lesley’s day.

“It makes me feel closer to them because we get to have our car rides back home. We have these conversations about what they did or what somebody said, or somebody that was funny,” says Lesley. “Just connecting them in that way and feeling proud of myself for pushing through and getting them to these different experiences. And giving them an opportunity to do something I wouldn’t be able to do by myself.”

Lesley and Reagan have no plans to slow down their involvement with Breakthrough anytime soon – in fact, Reagan’s little brother Jaxon recently officially became a scholar as well.

“It is nothing you can do alone, and welcoming Breakthrough into our unit has been phenomenal for us,” says Lesley. “Being a parent is hard, but with Breakthrough, I feel like I’m doing something right.”

Your gift to Breakthrough can continue building unique experiences for scholars like Reagan. Thanks to your support, all of Breakthrough’s year-round programming is 100% free to scholars’ families.

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