Breaking Barriers

Tearing Down Barriers and Building Role Models

Photo of Jennifer
8 5

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Website or social media url(s) (optional):

@jenniferah on instagram

Date Started


Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.

  • Idea (hoping to get started in the future)

1. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project? NOTE: All applications must include a 1 minute video that answers: “I am stepping up to make change because..."

Last summer one of the members of our team worked at the summer school program at Holmes Middle School in Annandale, VA. During his time there, he noticed that Hispanic children were overrepresented in the group of students who were struggling with reading. As a Mexican-American whose parents both immigrated from Mexico, seeing other children of immigrants struggle to adapt to the culture sparked a need to help them. As he did some research, he noticed how poorly funded the English as a Second Language (ESOL) programs were in lower-income communities. Witnessing the struggles of these children in their formative years motivated him to help the students as much as he could while he was a volunteer there, but also to think of ways in which he could prevent this problem from continuing in the future.

2. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

The problem at hand is the barriers that immigrant children face with advancing in American society. Perhaps the most obvious barrier that these kids have to deal with is learning English when their parents are not fluent in the language. The schools in these communities do not do enough to alleviate this issue, as local funding policy in many counties prevents low-income communities from receiving quality ESOL programs that they need.

3. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

Breaking Barriers will work with elementary schools to instigate a mentorship program where older students with similar circumstances, such as sharing the same language, are paired with a recently immigrated student. This mentor will wear many hats, including tutor, role model, and extension of their support system, so that their transition is better supplemented and they have someone they can look up to in the classroom. These mentors will be selected through an application from their local communities and will be given the option to volunteer in the student’s classroom or in their ESOL room. Our organization will also fundraise to provide school-run programs in low-income communities with better materials to teach their students. These funds will go into upgrading technology in the classroom, books, English workbooks, and other language-related materials. Our members have witnessed the effects that adequate materials and books have on a student’s education and wish to provide that resource to everyone, regardless of a student’s circumstances.

4. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of what happens when a person or group gets involved with your project.

A student involved in our program will immediately get paired with a mentor who shares similar circumstances. This mentor will tutor the student in general subjects, including English, serve as role models, and guide the student through the transition to the United States. In the classroom, they will receive additional support in the form of books, English workbooks, and technology upgrades to supplement their English acquisition. Their progress will be charted through grade tracking and mentor feedback and reported back to their teachers.

5. The X Factor: What is different about your project compared to other programs or solutions already out there?

If one visits the schools in the communities where this project would be implemented, it becomes clear that government policies are not doing enough to address the issue of education for recently immigrated children. In addition, tutoring programs at schools often do not go as far as providing material assistance to these schools. Breaking Barriers stands out because of its prioritizing of providing these schools with the physical materials necessary to give disadvantaged children a proper education. Also, we plan to create a network of role models for these younger students.

6. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?

Our project is currently in the idea stage, but we plan to measure student’s progress through grade tracking and monthly English proficiency tests. In terms of their progress in the classroom, we will communicate with teachers, mentors, and volunteers to get a sense of our student’s academic and social progress throughout their time participating in the program.

7. What’s Next: What are your ideas for taking your project to the next level?

The first step towards expanding the project would be to build into communities outside of Northern Virginia, potentially expanding into different states around the country. Additionally, another form of expansion would involve funding materials for different immigrant groups, not just those coming from Latin American countries. Breaking Barriers may also be expanded to different roles as well, advocating for school funding reform on the state and county level so that this issue no longer goes unsolved.

8. Future Support: What are the resources needed to make your vision a reality?

As we are working with schools, Breaking Barriers would obviously need the sponsorship of individual schools and county school systems. This project’s funding would be operated in a very modern manner, using social media outreach to raise awareness for the issue and to provide a platform for crowdfunding. Also, the grassroots nature of the organization’s operations requires extensive support from volunteers willing to put in the time to execute our vision of a more equitable education system. We would also require a website so that others interested in participating in the program can learn more about Breaking Barriers, what our organization is dedicated to, and how to help in their own communities.

9. Finances: If applicable, have you mobilized any of the following resources so far?

  • Friend support

10. Ripple Effect: Please share some ideas of how you could partner with other changemakers or involve other young people as leaders in making a difference.

We will involve other members in our community to serve as mentors and volunteers in our program. Eventually, we will expand Breaking Barriers to serve immigrant students in other cities/states so others are able to the receive the support they need. To do this, we would have high schoolers open up local chapters at elementary schools near their area. In addition, Breaking Barriers will require the cooperation and support of teachers to run our program in their classrooms.

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Social media
  • T-Mobile page or contact

Evaluation results

5 evaluations so far

1. Overall evaluation

5 - This idea rocked my world. It’s awesome! - 20%

4 - This idea seems really exciting. With a little more polishing, it’d be among my favorites. - 80%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 0%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - It didn’t make my heart beat faster. - 0%

2. Changemaker Quality

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 20%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 80%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 0%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

3. Creativity

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 20%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 60%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 20%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

No Answer - 0%

4. Commitment

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 33.3%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 100%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 33.3%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

No Answer - 0%

5. Connection

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 40%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 40%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 20%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

No Answer or No Connection - 0%

Attachments (1)


Join the conversation:

Photo of Meagan Warren

I love what you are planning on doing for the students in your community! I have a charity called Books For Bedtime and my goal is to get books into the hands of children who need them and to inspire youth philanthropy! Because we are in the same realms (education and literacy), I thought we might be able to work together.

Photo of Jennifer

Thank you! That's a great idea. We definitely should work together.

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