A program that aims to break the cycle of poverty by helping kids get into good high schools and colleges is expanding into the Bronx. NY1's Erin Clarke filed the following report.
Students are preparing for the standardized tests that are the gateways to the best high schools and colleges.
"I would really want a good opportunity to go to a really good school and have a good education," said Madeline Garcia, a Breakthrough New York student.
Tutors or commercial test prep programs can cost hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars, but this is a free class run by the group Breakthrough New York. Its goal is to help city students from low-income families graduate from a four-year college by offering resources their parents typically can't afford.
"For us to be able to be the great equalizer for these families and provide them with services like free test prep, free after school tutoring and free mentorship for their students to be successful, it's pretty awesome," said Chaztery Cruz, site coordinator with Breakthrough New York.
A hallmark of Breakthrough New York's program is that students teach fellow students. Kids in high school and college are trained to mentor and teach middle-schoolers. The older kids are matched with younger ones from the same neighborhoods.
"It's kind of like you have someone to look up to," said Christopher Laporte, a student with Breakthrough New York. "They understand where I'm coming from. They know what I've been going through. They know what I'm going through now. They can give me advice."
In the past, Breakthrough New York only served students in Brooklyn and Manhattan. That changed recently when it opened a Bronx site at the new Cary Leeds Tennis Center in Crotona Park, home of the nonprofit New York Junior Tennis and Learning.
Unlike at other Breakthrough locations, students receive free tennis lessons. The kids say the athletic instruction actually helps them in the classroom.
"Tennis kind of motivates me to do better in school," Laporte said.
"I've had a student come up to me and tell me, 'Now I see the point of teamwork and how I can better my relationships, not only at Breakthrough but also at school,'" Cruz said.
A breakthrough that can help the students not only in school, but beyond.
For more information about Breakthrough New York, visit btny.org.