The Nerdery - Overnight Website Challenge

Twin Cities 2015, May 2-3

Breakthrough Twin Cities

Breakthrough Twin Cities uses a two-tiered approach to close education opportunity gaps for under-resourced students.



First, we prepare students for college success from middle school through college acceptance. Research shows that the level of academic achievement by eighth grade has a greater impact on college and career readiness than high school achievement (ACT, “The Forgotten Middle,” 2008). This is why BTC provides college-preparatory academic instruction during the summers before seventh, eighth, and ninth grade. We aim to set students on the path to college well before they can be set off-track. Currently, BTC is the only college preparatory program in the Twin Cities that works with students in middle school. Our students also continue to prepare for college during high school through leadership development, college and career readiness workshops, essay coaching and personalized college counseling.



Second, we prepare aspiring educators for success well before they enter the teaching profession through our "students teaching students" model. Breakthrough is one of the only organizations in the U.S. that identifies, recruits, selects, trains, and develops aspiring teachers while they are still in college, and then accelerates their transition into teaching. We draw our teaching fellows from diverse backgrounds, with over 40% being students of color and over 40% being male; both of which significantly impact the gaps in diversity for our region’s teacher pool.



Our model has had incredible success in helping students overcome barriers. We know that only 33% of under-resourced students enroll in college and of those, only 14% actually graduate. These results are 80% and 60%, respectively, for high-income students (Bedsworth, Colby, Doctor, “Reclaiming the American Dream,” 20006). To date, 100% of BTC students completing the six-year program received admission to colleges and universities on an average annual scholarship of more than $27,000 per student, compared to just $6,200 for other leading college access programs. Finally, 70% of our teaching fellows choose careers in education following participation in our program.

What new functionality we are looking for

A way to connect with those that care about our work:

We want our website to be one of the main hubs with which we communicate with stakeholders and new relationships. It is essential for us to connect with those that value our work and those with budding interest in getting involved with our organization.



User friendly interface and aesthetically pleasing design:

Our website lacks the infrastructure and design to be an asset in our communications platform. The menus are clunky and difficult to navigate, the layout is not aesthetically pleasing, and the functionality is poor. In short, our website is not currently meeting our needs, because we are not excited to send people to it. It needs an overhaul, a new look, and user-friendly design.



A tool to tell our story:

In a new website, we would like to be able to better say who we are in its look, feel, and function. When people go to our website we want them to feel like "this is Breakthrough!"



How the new functionality will help

Breakthrough Twin Cities is in a period of rapid growth. During the current 2014-15 school year we are serving 339 students. In 2015-16, that will grow to 475 and by 2020 we will be serving over 1500 students. In order to achieve this mission, we need to have excellent website as the bedrock of our communications platform.



As we grow, we need our students, staff, funders, and potential funders to have a place to go for "everything Breakthrough." A new website would add incredible value to our marketing/communications, fundraising, and program initiatives. It would also be a great tool to effectively tell our story to people who may not have heard it yet. If we can reach more people, we can get the resources we need to effectively serve hundreds more students.

How our organization will use the technology

Who will use the technology

22 Messages from Supporters

2015-04-01 19:48:21 UTC
Kate Ryan Reiling

This is an incredible organization that matches students desire and energy to get into college while helping to train the next generation of educators. They truly bend the arch of students' lives in profound ways while matching the passion of teachers to teach. The impact is felt not just in the students' and teachers lives but into their families and communities. This website would have the same impact and would echo beyond just the UX/UI changes. Pick Breathrough!

2015-04-01 19:39:05 UTC
Sarah Jansen

Breakthrough is a stellar, gritty, scrappy organization that often creates magic out of meager resources. Community generosity has fed Breakthrough's success from the beginning, and The Nerdery's innovation with the website would be yet another bit of magic to pull Breakthrough out of being a "Twin Cities best kept secret" and turn it into something the community BUZZES about. Pick Breakthough! Do it! Do it!

2015-04-01 21:05:54 UTC
Nick Hamel

Breakthrough Twin Cities highlights the transformative work that can happen when you bring together passion, dedication, a commitment to setting high standards, positivity and more. People enter into BTC at a variety of places and stages in their lives. They are gathered as students, teachers, staff, community members, volunteers, and donors, and no matter what the role, BTC pushes every member of the collaboration to achieve more than he or she ever thought possible. A new website would revitalize the means to bring together more invested and passionate individuals, adding to the work and mission of this program. Every investment into better communication improves the backbone of support that makes all the magic happen!

2015-04-01 23:24:22 UTC
Ashley Cooper

Breakthrough Twin Cities is a program like no other. Imagine the most talented group of high school and college students from all over the country coming together to share their passion for education with younger students who (starting in middle school) seek out leadership and academic experiences that push, challenge, and encourage them to reach their full potential and prepare them for college success. This combination, (along with an incredibly dedicated and passionate staff, board, and community partners) creates a unique educational utopia in which high expectations, love of learning, and "strictly positive" energy radiates through every lesson plan, cheer, and individual interaction throughout the whole year. Breakthrough is part of an educational movement that should be available to every student, teacher, family, and professional who wishes to bring out the best in themselves.

Over the past year, BTC opened two new locations and continues to expand its programming in order to better serve students and families in the Metro area. Having a website that shares Breakthrough's mission & growth, highlights the transformative stories and accomplishments of its students and teachers, and reflects the unique environment that Breakthrough creates would allow current participants and future members of our community to better discover, access, and interact with the program in a whole new way. Breakthrough Twin Cities NEEDS to be on the top of your list! Thank you for your consideration!

2015-04-02 10:24:52 UTC
Community Member, Passionate Volunteer, and Parent

My first experience with Breakthrough was attending their end of summer celebration with my family last summer. I took my young boys with me to the event because I was invited to their 2014 End of Summer Program Celebration. Immediately after the program my young 2.5-year-old son, asked his mom "Am I going to College." This is not something we had actually discussed with our 2.5 year old. The Breakthrough students and teaching fellows made such an impression on him about learning, fun, and the importance of "taking one step to get closer to college" that he was already thinking about going. My wife’s answer was, "Yes of course you are going to college” His next question was, "Well, can my brother (who was six months at the time) go too". I replied, "Yes, of course in 16 years... he can go too."

To me this is the promise and incredible value of Breakthrough... shifting the mindset and expectation that a college education is not a dream but an attainable goal for the young people in our community. I am amazed by how Breakthrough engages and inspires young people that might otherwise fall through the cracks on their education and career journey. This program honors and highlights the strengths of our young people while empowering and supporting them to overcome incredible barriers and challenges. Breakthrough is achieving awesome results and I think a new website would help to amplify their impact. I can’t think of a program more deserving of this kind of support and service. Support under resourced students and aspiring educations in the Twin Cities … Pick Breakthrough!!!

2015-04-02 13:17:20 UTC
Peter Banick

Breakthrough Twin Cities (BTC) is an organization with not only a great mission and vision, but the people and passion to support their extraordinary goals. BTC seeks to not only change the lives of individuals students (which they do many times over!), but also to enhance expectations of families, teachers and schools to the ultimate benefit of our entire community. The vision and achievements of BTC and its students should be known and shared with everyone in our community (and beyond), and a new website would do great things for BTC in reaching others with their message.

2015-04-02 11:42:58 UTC
Emily Wingfield

Breakthrough changes lives. With your support, Breakthrough will be better able to tell their story to students, teachers, donors, the public, and various other constituencies. The more they are able to convey the "magic" of Breakthrough, the more lives that will be transformed by this remarkable organization.

2015-04-02 14:06:56 UTC
Jeff Ochs

The more you know about Breakthrough Twin Cities the more you realize that it is one of the most innovative and effective educational organizations out there. But it needs a website makes a powerful first impression and that lends credibility to the ambitious expansion plans the organization is embarking upon in the next 5-10 years with the help of Social Venture Partners and a number of other partners. It also needs to be user friendly and easy for the staff to update. Thanks for considering BTC!

2015-04-02 14:19:51 UTC
Elena Torry-Schrag

I have been lucky enough to intern with Breakthrough for the past year and have been consistently amazed by the dedication of both the staff and participants in the program. Everyone at Breakthrough goes above and beyond what is required of them to support our students. Working with 7th graders, I have been forced to reevaluate my conception of "middle schoolers" - never have I been more fortunate to work with as passionate a group of scholars, stewards, and citizens. I am proud to have my name associated with Breakthrough Twin Cities and urge you to pick Breakthrough!

2015-04-02 14:02:49 UTC
Chris Porter

Breakthrough Twin Cities proves over and over again that low income students of color can make their (and their families') dreams of success through education become a reality. By providing needed support at crucial, vulnerable times in students' lives, BTC ensures that they can fulfill their hopes for high achievement in high school and college. Truly, BTC matches students' hunger for a better life through education.

And it happens because of the BTC model of "students teaching students." Older college and high school students work with younger students - thereby discovering the rich rewards of teaching. 70% of BTC teaching fellows choose education as a career in order to work with students of color.

All of us know the obstacles facing under-resourced students in today's world, as well as the skills needed in the knowledge economy. BTC provides a strong bridge from poverty to full and successful engagement in life.

2015-04-02 15:59:29 UTC
J. Moon

Breakthrough Twin Cities supports under resourced students to actualize their academic ambition. The students and aspiring teachers alike are passionate, driven and hard working. It would be wonderful to have a website that can convey their stories of growth and development, and improve accessibility of information to the current/future students in the organization as well as the wonderful aspiring teachers. Pick Breakthrough!

2015-04-02 16:27:38 UTC
Mike Clancy

The impact that Breakthrough Twin Cities has on students is immense. Having spent two summers working with the program I can attest to the incredible culture of learning that Breakthrough instills in its participants.

Personally Breakthrough played an early and a key role in shaping the kind of teacher I am today. The program really inspired me to challenge the status quo of education. It helped me believe that our education systems can be better by providing living proof of what is possible when students are given the structures and support necessary to reach college.

2015-04-02 17:08:59 UTC
Gail Engstrom

As a Breakthrough Twin Cities supporter I have attended their spring gala the past few years, and hearing the presentations by current and graduating BTC students has been truly inspirational. BTC would be a very deserving recipient of an enhanced website to help broaden their reach.

2015-04-02 18:13:04 UTC
Cedrik Cady-Hill

as a graduate of the Breakthrough program who has seen it in its earlier days, I can attest to the oppurtunity it provides for people who wouldn't have had others and that the website needs work done.

2015-04-03 00:24:08 UTC
Danny Ross

College access work looks different at Breakthrough Twin Cities, especially because it capitalizes on the transformative power of relationships. Students meet students from different backgrounds who go to other schools -- they then realize that they share a lot of the same aspirations, and a love of fun and learning. BTC is a great venue for 1) those loves to be seamlessly combined, 2) building upon those aspirations to craft a path to college, and 3) for individuals themselves to realize their potential towards being leaders in a community of caring. I am not the first person to observe that BTC is like a family -- and I certainly won't be the last. The same goes for the staff, who are as committed to the project of building that community as they are excellent and prepared. BTC works, it's going to keep working, and it's an extremely deserving organization for this challenge.

2015-04-03 03:50:18 UTC
Chez Jones

My daughter attends Breakthrough and she loves it. They helped her come out of her shell and realize her full potential. They are dedicated to the success of all their participants. They deserve a new website so they can continue to help other families!

2015-04-03 03:23:32 UTC
Kristyn Brisnehan

I distinctly remember my first day of teacher training at Breakthrough. I was told multiple times that "Breakthrough isn't a job, it's a lifestyle." This proved true time after time, and I am proud to say that Breakthrough had an extremely positive impact on my life. The current state of education, filled with achievement gaps, funding problems, and national discussion about standardized testing, looks all the brighter when the BTC model is applied. This organization has taken passionate college and high school students and paired them with equally passionate younger students and older mentors. This combination creates an incredibly supportive community, one where learning is the focus of each day, and questions about college always start with "when", not "if". The biggest problem I have yet to encounter in my four years with the program is my inability to explain it to other people! Therefore, BTC is an ideal organization for this challenge. An updated website, reflecting the multiple aspects of the program, would be a powerful tool in the recruitment process and spreading the word about this life-changing organization. I cannot think of a more deserving organization for such an innovative challenge.

2015-04-03 16:09:20 UTC
Jennifer Otremba

I am SO excited the the Nerdery is leading this effort to bring together design professionals and nonprofits in need of great websites. I have been a staff member at BTC since 2007 and was working on the program team a few years ago when I pieced together our existing website using a template-based online service. At the time we created a site that met our most immediate program needs and we did not have the expertise of a marketing and web design professional available to help us design a site that met the needs of all our constituents - program participants, parents, supporters, community members, etc - which means IT NEEDS HELP! BTC has grown so much since I've been here, and we have big goals for the coming years, which means we need a website that can reach all of our constituents in a highly effective manner. Thanks for your consideration!

2015-04-03 20:43:10 UTC
Nathan Rayle (aspiring teacher '11-'13)

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Breakthrough serves students who may otherwise be forgotten, providing these students with academic rigor that may never have been available, and helps pave a road to college that students may have never seen.

This is truly a remarkable student-focused organization that recognizes and takes seriously, it's commitment to social justice. This program extends far beyond running a summer camp, it is rigorous, it is intentional, and it does not cease to exist when summer ends. Breakthrough commits to its students from 7-16th (yes i meant 16th) grade, but the effects of this experience are not easily forgotten. My colleagues from Breakthrough invariably refer to the strategies learned and the connections made to dictate how to run classrooms, businesses, or ourselves as we work to be change-makers in our field.

My simple haphazard introduction with Breakthrough has done more to form my teaching philosophy, my practice of intense collaboration with peers, and my passion for serving students of modest means - than the culmination of every other experience I have had in my university studies or practical world experiences.

Breakthrough is where passionate students, teachers and people are released into the world with the audacity to believe they can change it. Thank-you for joining in our journey!

2015-04-04 00:56:12 UTC
Tamra Anderson

I do not know of any other organization that has a greater impact on the lives of young people. This amazing organization educates, transforms, and inspires students by providing additional support to under-resourced students to help them realize their educational and professional dreams. These students will become future leaders of our community and will influence positive change in their corner of the world. Breakthrough Twin Cities has outgrown their website. They need a powerful website to promote the important work they are doing in our community. Please choose Breakthrough Twin Cities!

2015-04-06 00:23:54 UTC
Martha Sanford

There is educational achievement disparity in Minnesota of which none of us are proud. Breakthrough Twin Cities shines a light on Minnesota's hope. This hope is the young people Breakthrough serves, the students and the teaching fellows. We would like to spread their light of tenacity, talent and achievement. Your webite expertise can help defeat disparity and drive the dream. Thank you for your consideration.

2015-04-13 00:48:16 UTC
Alec Torigian

I could write pages and pages on the beauty and importance of Breakthrough Twin Cities, but I'll do my best to pare it down. BTC changes students' lives without a doubt, and that's clear through the stats and the stories. Stats of graduation rates and stories of college acceptances, scholarships, and kind-hearted deeds done paint a good bit of the picture. I can also add to that picture that my life was indelibly changed by my experience as a BTC teacher. Not only did I become a better teacher, but I found and solidified my life's passion and work, and I got to enter into the world of education knowing just how dynamic and awe-inspiring students and teachers can be, and that alone is a gift that I will try to pay back with my life's work as an educator. The thing is BTC deserves even much more than that, and it certainly deserves (for the sake of the lives it touches) the most amazing and useful website possible! Also, in my opinion, the most amazing thing about this program is that THE BEST IS YET TO COME!

Our Mission

BTC’s mission is to prepare under-resourced students for college success and cultivate the next generation of educators. BTC envisions that all students have the resources to reach their full potential, that every classroom is led by an engaging teacher committed to each student’s success, and that society as a whole realizes the ultimate social and economic benefits of fully investing in its youth. We achieve our mission through a unique approach of students teaching students. BTC hires aspiring educators (Teaching Fellows) who are high school and college students from diverse backgrounds to provide rigorous academic content to middle and high school students who are motivated to attend college.