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“I took it as a personal failure. I thought I had a problem because I wasn’t able to understand. I fell behind because I couldn’t keep up with the material while also learning the English language.”

When Claudia was in 6th grade she heard about Breakthrough Austin, a local nonprofit focused on preparing and supporting first-generation college-bound students from 6th grade all the way through college graduation. Despite her academic struggles, she decided to apply.

“In high school, my self-esteem was very low. I didn’t believe in myself. This experience scarred me and silenced me in school which prohibited me from excelling not only in academics but also in the social and emotional aspects of life.”

Claudia’s parents were hugely encouraging, but they didn’t speak English and had not graduated from high school. They had no experience of how to advocate for their daughter and make her college dream a reality. Her high school’s college and career counselors weren’t equipped to provide the one-on-one attention she needed either.


It was Breakthrough that helped Claudia with classwork, planning, test-taking and applying for college. The nonprofit even provided the support of a mentor during her college years. Last year, she graduated from Texas State University with a B.A. in Bilingual Education.

Claudia now works at Breakthrough Austin as an AmeriCorps member, providing young college-bound students the same encouragement and coaching she received. She plans to start teaching next school year and looks forward to applying to graduate school in the future.

Claudia is especially interested in research showing that being bilingual promotes higher brain function. She believes that dual language programs for all would not only benefit individual students but also society and our economy. But for now, she’s focused on today’s high school and college students.

Understanding Austin

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