Breakthrough Houston

Please visit Breakthrough Houston, formerly Summerbridge Houston, at for more information.

What is Breakthrough?

Breakthrough Houston is a tuition-free, academic program that helps put low-income, academically talented middle-school and high-school students on the path to college while inspiring outstanding college- and high-school students to pursue careers in education. As a member of the nationally known Breakthrough Collaborative, Breakthrough Houston is co-hosted by Episcopal High School and St. John’s School, serving students primarily from the Houston Independent School District.

Students make a six-year commitment to Breakthrough starting in the summer prior to their seventh grade year. Rising 7th, 8th, and 9th grade students from Houston schools attend our six-week, intensive Summer Program and year-round School Year Program classes taught by high school and college students.They take challenging classes in literature, science, math, and writing, while receiving exposure to foreign languages, the arts, life skills, and test-taking tools in their elective courses.
High school students (current 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th graders) follow our College Bound Program curricula which include ACT/SAT prep courses, college counseling, leadership development, and community involvement opportunities during the school year. We also assist them in identifying and applying to suitable internship or academic enrichment activities during the summer.

Our Mission
The program has a two-fold mission. Breakthrough Houston aims to identify, recruit, and prepare students who possess high academic potential, but limited educational resources for competitive high school programs and college admission. In addition, we recruit and train talented high school and college students who are considering careers in education.

Who Are Breakthrough Students?
Our students come from many different backgrounds. Although there is not a typical Breakthrough student, all share a genuine love of learning and demonstrate both personal and educational promise. The program targets low-income students, including many who will be the first in their families to earn college degrees. Approximately 92% of our students qualify for free or reduced lunch, and 99% are students of color. Our relative gender percentages are typically 55% female and 45% male. 

Student Grade Composition
- 52 7th graders
- 38 8th graders
- 138 high school students
- Total over 200 students served

Who Are Breakthrough Teachers?
Talented high school and college students from all over the country serve as role models and advisors, showing students that it is "cool to be smart." Bright, passionate, and creative, they are intrigued by learning and teaching.

Each year Princeton Review rates Breakthrough Collaborative one of the top ten internships for college students. As a result, we have an outstanding group of teachers for both our Summer Program and our School Year Program, from high schools such as Episcopal High School, St. John’s School, and YES Prep and colleges such as University of Pennsylvania, Rice University, Vanderbilt, Claremont-McKenna, UVa, Spelman, and University of Texas.

Summer teachers receive a small stipend for working at least fifty hours per week for eight weeks. The school year program is staffed by high school and college students who receive community service hours for their hard work. Both the summer and school year programs utilize veteran teachers, called Instructional Coaches, to provide support, feedback, and training to the teachers. 

Breakthrough Houston is funded through local foundations, businesses, and individuals. St. John's School, Episcopal High School, and HISD provide in-kind space, facilities and transportation. To donate now or find out how you can get more involved, contact Michelle Phillips or visit:

Read the Breakthrough Houston Strategic Plan