Breakthrough Collaborative, a college access organization, has honored Virginia DeWees ’16 with a teaching fellow position in its consequential summer program. Repeatedly named as one of the Princeton Review‘s “Top 10 Internships in America,” Breakthrough Collaborative also is acclaimed for its vast and innovative impact on youth as recognized by the White House.
DeWees is one of only 30 students who have been selected to serve in the Philadelphia area out of a competitive pool of 600 applicants. In her role, she will teach writing during her multiple, rigorous summer sessions, which are designed to provide middle and high school students with the skills necessary to eventually continue to a four-year college. For 62 percent of DeWees’ Breakthrough class, the students will be the first in their family to seek higher education.
Dreaming of a career in education since she was young, DeWees has developed her skills through extensive involvement in the HWS Writing Colleagues Program, through which DeWees assists students in developing essays and other written coursework.
“I aim to create a classroom where there is a constant exchange of knowledge coming from both the teacher and the student because some of the greatest things I have learned in my 20 years on this Earth have come from the wealth of knowledge the students I have worked with in the past have shared with me in the classroom,” DeWees says.
For DeWees, Assistant Professor of Writing and Rhetoric Hannah Dickinson, a former Breakthrough teaching fellow offered guidance leading up to and during the application process.
“I have taken two classes with Professor Dickinson and her positivity and dedication towards her students is incredibly inspiring and I can bet that those two traits were highlighted during her time as a teaching fellow at Breakthrough,” DeWees says.
Dickinson trusts that the Breakthrough program will be just as transformative for DeWees as it was for her.
“Our public discourse about education focuses far too often on what students and teachers can’t do,” she says. “Breakthrough taught me that there are virtually no limits to what students and teachers can accomplish as long as they have resources and support.”
As a writing and rhetoric major and education minor, DeWees served as a teaching assistant in New Zealand during her semester abroad and works extensively on campus as a Writing Colleague. In addition to working at the William Smith Dean’s Office, DeWees is the vice president of the HWS Pride Alliance, a student ambassador for the campus PLEN chapter, and a member of Laurel Society.
DeWees is in the preliminary stages of her Honors project, which will study educational leadership in independent schools. DeWees will teach rising eighth or ninth graders during the six-week Breakthrough program this summer, during which she will also facilitate extracurricular activities for the students. Following her time at HWS, DeWees hopes to serve the public sector through Teach for America or the Peace Corps, and later work in education policy.
Founded in 1995, Breakthrough Collaborative is one of the most innovative non-profit organizations for education outreach in the nation. The program views middle school as a particularly formative period for disadvantaged students and sees educational intervention at this time as critical to later success. Breakthrough makes a six-year commitment to students, assisting them through middle school to ensure enrollment in competitive high schools, and later college.