Reflect on your time in school. Consider the teacher who left a lasting impression on your educational journey. What qualities did they possess that made them stand out?

Relationships hold power in our lives, so what if we leverage them to their full potential? At Breakthrough Birmingham, we utilize a distinct relationship model entitled “near-peer.” The “near-peer” model allows middle school students to interact with college students regularly through our programming, producing positive outcomes. We are a Birmingham nonprofit seeking to make education equity a reality for our scholars, and relationships are central to how we do this. 

Why do we do this?

We know how influential relationships are in education, and our near-peer model seeks to impact scholars, teaching fellows, staff, and more. We exist to empower Birmingham’s next generation to become the leaders of tomorrow. Utilizing the power of relationships, a pillar of Breakthrough Birmingham, we aim to help build & maintain healthy relationships with others and ourselves. By integrating the “near-peer” model, we see this as an opportunity for two-way learning, notably for our scholars and teaching fellows

“Beyond the insight a mentor can provide is their ability to empathize with their students,” according to Franco Mavromihalis at the Medium.

Do you remember the feeling as a young student interacting with someone older, especially a college student? We certainly do, and that level of influence can positively impact our students’ lives. It’s why we’ve built “near-peer” interactions into everything we do at Breakthrough Birmingham.

(Pictured: Teaching Fellow assisting Summer scholar during a mechanic elective class.)

The great news is we see it working. 

The first Breakthrough Birmingham class to graduate high school (2019) immediately entered college at a rate of 64%, with 90.5% continuing to year two. The second class (2020) immediately entered college at a rate of 80%, which is 26 points higher than the BCS average, 18 points higher than Alabama, and 13 points higher than the national average. 

We are excited to see our goal of post-secondary success translate into immediate college-going for our scholars; in 2023, immediate college-going was 76% among BTB scholars. We trust that the unique “near-peer” model contributes to this success. At Breakthrough Birmingham, relationships are the crux of what we build on for our community, so we have chosen it as a pillar for our program. 

Do you want to get involved with the impact at Breakthrough Birmingham? 

Subscribe to our newsletter for quarterly updates. Your financial support can significantly impact education equity in Birmingham; donate today!

“Breakthrough Birmingham is a free, high-quality, multi-year program striving to reverse educational inequity. We partner with highly motivated middle and high school students in our communities. Using our “students teaching students” model, our teaching fellows are coached by veteran educators to teach and mentor our scholars. We are a nonprofit based in Birmingham with a site in Talladega, AL.” 

Author: Caroline K. Elrod, Communications Associate


Keep up with Breakthrough Birmingham!