Our client Breakthrough New York prepares motivated low-income students for college graduation with a transformative program that includes a 10-year commitment from sixth grade through college. How do they maintain high-quality student support and program operations over this extensive lifecycle?
We were excited to hear Breakthrough New York share the story of how they recruit, manage applications, provide student support, and track progress effectively. Their recent full adoption of Salesforce has helped them increase their efficiency in numerous ways.
Amy Cruz, Chief Operations Officer at Breakthrough New York, remarks, “When I started at the organization, one of the apparent needs of our team was being able to use time more efficiently and productively on the quality of support that our students and our families needed. Once I observed the team in action, for me that meant: not spending our time on Google Sheets, not spending our time creating and recreating Excel templates. That’s what led me to Salesforce.”
For a high-level overview, read on or watch our webinar.
Managing Program Results from Beginning to End
Breakthrough New York has seen tangible, real results from their new Salesforce program management system in their first season since launching. The system has helped Breakthrough program-wide, from initial application to student performance management.
Initial Application Process: Previously, six Breakthrough New York staff members spent three weeks, or 240 hours, collecting, collating and processing applications. Now with Salesforce, two staff members spend three days or 48 hours processing, with hopes of getting that number down to even less next year.
“The new application functionality has been an absolute game changer and has allowed us to expand to more students than ever before, and process more quickly than ever before. The automatic email about missing materials has been especially efficient,” says Natalie Cox, Senior Program Director at Breakthrough New York.
High School and College Application Process: Previously, staff spent the majority of their time following up on student to-dos and chasing down submissions. Now with their new system, staff focus only on quality of applications, such as essays and interview preparation. The system is set up to auto-remind students of outstanding tasks.
Student Support and Opportunities: Previously, student support situations and college access opportunities existed in individual email accounts or staff members’ memories. Now, they are shared across all staff in Salesforce, giving them a historical record of student needs.
Managing 10 Years of Student Performance: Previously, success metrics were undefined and unaligned. Building their Salesforce system helped Breakthrough New York be more explicit about defining their metrics and what was important to track overall along the 10-year timeline.
Walking Through Breakthrough New York’s Salesforce Student Data Management Solution
Breakthrough New York breaks down their student 10-year journey into a few critical phases:
- Initial application to Breakthrough New York
- Student support through middle school (focus on academic support)
- Student support between ninth grade and last year of high school (focus on socio-emotional support)
- Student support in college (focus on career support)
Each of these phases contain processes that Breakthrough New York manages through Salesforce.
Breakthrough New York Application Process: The start to the student journey, the Breakthrough New York application, is highly competitive.
Students must meet 6 core eligibility requirements (such as being a current 6th grader in a New York High School), and 2 out of 4 of another set of requirements, such as being an English language learner and being the first in their family to attend college. Student selection is also based on applicant scores from essay responses, recommendations, interviews and in-person observations.
Breakthrough New York leverages FormAssembly, a third-party app that Exponent Partners integrated into their Salesforce platform, to collect and track all students’ application materials in one accessible place. The FormAssembly application features:
- A link that any sixth grader can use to apply for the program
- Basic information tracking, such as contact, demographic, and other information that program managers need internally and for funders
- Questions that meet and trigger basic and complex eligibility requirements, such as the middle school they attend, and how they performed on state test scores
- Household and income information tracking
- The ability to upload proof documents directly like test scores, report cards, and income documentation
- A second unique link for students to fill out the qualitative portion when deemed eligible
- The automatic sending of a link and form for a teacher recommender to submit when the student enters a teacher email
When students enter their application in FormAssembly, it is immediately entered into Breakthrough New York’s Salesforce back-end as well.
Within Salesforce, staff can track student applications at a glance by opening a view that shows all application statuses, alongside name, overall scores, eligibility status, location, and more. From there, they can drill into individual student records to view more details such as receipt of their documents and qualitative responses.
Rather than staff manually entering each application and sorting thousands of documents, they can dedicate more time to assessing qualitative responses. Also, they can more easily see an overview of the applications and quality of candidate they are receiving.
For recruitment purposes, they have a unique link to the application they can easily share via email, mailings, social media, partner communications and more.
Student Support (Academic, Emotional/Social, & More): Breakthrough New York tracks academic data like student grades, test scores, and attendance in Salesforce on the student record. This helps them see where they can provide support at each stage of the student lifecycle. They track how students are performing in the Breakthrough New York program as well as their current schools.
Staff can also manage mass data, such as summer program attendance. With a tab showing a view of Breakthrough New York sessions, they can enroll an individual student or many students, see an attendance roster of a given day, and keep track of homework and meals. From this view, they can also drill down into an individual student’s attendance and performance. They use a similar format to track school grades, school attendance, school enrollment, and opportunities.
The format works for other custom aspects of their program. For one facet of social/emotional support tracking (a later focus of the journey), they worked with Exponent Partners to create an object called “Risks,” which tracks individual student issues. A staff member can note an issue like bullying, rank its severity level, and note whether it is active or resolved.
Tracking College Access Opportunities Throughout Program: Students in the Breakthrough New York program have varying opportunities at different stages of their journey, such as internships and scholarships. Salesforce allows Breakthrough New York to more easily note and share out the criteria of a given opportunity (deadline, location, compensation, etc), and track eligibility. If a student applies, staff can track them as one applicant on the opportunity, and see how many students total are submitting to it.
This tracking also helps when students are completing their college application, as they have a history of extracurriculars that are tracked on their individual student record.
Monitoring Student “Health” Annually: With Exponent Partners, Breakthrough New York created a feature called “Pathways” that shows the overall aggregate rating of a student as a color: green, yellow, orange. These display when a student struggled or did very well, and are tracked for each year. This provides an at-a-glance view for what students accomplished at the end of the year, based on aggregate milestones, paperwork, and expectations.
Cruz recommends, “Choose a data system and build it. While you’re waiting for the perfect system, it never really comes along. You have to create it. Make it a priority, and take the time to build the system that will help your staff support your students in the best way possible.” Learn more about Breakthrough New York’s program management on Salesforce and see their live demo in this webinar.
Education Solution Consultant
The chance to go to college once seemed out of reach for Daisy Zheng.
"My family is not that wealthy and back then, I really doubted my ability to go to college," Zheng said.
But the high school sophomore says thanks to Breakthrough New York, she found the confidence to pursue her dreams.
Breakthrough New York is a non-profit organization that's been around for nearly 20 years in Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Manhattan.
It works on a "students-helping-students" model.
Volunteers -- many who are in high school -- give educational support to low-income kids from middle school through college.
And it's all for free.
"This program made me see a future for myself," Zheng said.
Now Zheng is hoping to help others feel the same way.
She volunteers with the non-profit twice a week.
She tutors students in math and mentors them as they navigate through high school.
"Kids do get help with their homework. They also get help with all sorts of things related to their lives, their community, their futures and that's the transformative power of that community and that sense of family," said Breakthrough New York Board Chair Bonnie Litt.
Some students say young people like Zheng are an inspiration and proof that Breakthrough New York can open doors.
"If you are a minority or you do have a difference, none of that matters here. This is one of the best places to have a difference because you are just embraced with open arms," said Jade Walker, a student.
"A lot of people come to this country with dreams and they don't necessarily know how to execute them. I believe Breakthrough gave me the tools to at least be on a path toward reaching my goals," said Jailene Peralta, a student.
And for Zheng, that goal is to one day become a teacher.
"We want everyone to be happy and to accomplish a dream or a goal they had since they were a kid," Zheng said.
And so for guiding other students on a path toward success, Daisy Zheng is our New Yorker of the Week.