Vision-Shapers-Title 1

After more than 20 years working in unison with the residents of East Garfield Park, Breakthrough’s “people first” focus has helped unify the community. With experts in workforce development, violence prevention, education and more, our work and service has benefitted from the leadership that drives our teams and staff on the front lines doing the work.
Our Vision Shapers series highlights expertise from Breakthrough leadership on issues impacting our community and work.

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Though there are hardworking people with great talents and passions in East Garfield Park, the community faces challenges in many ways due to persistent disinvestment. Breakthrough believes that to overcome cycles of poverty, strong relationships play a vital role in driving opportunities. We’ve worked in this community since 2000, and we see how strong community partnerships produce lasting change. 

To overcome cycles of poverty there must be strong relationships that play a vital role in driving opportunities for lasting change. Click To Tweet

Breakthrough provides resources, relationships, opportunities for skill building, and essential services to East Garfield Park residents. This can only be done by and with the community. Therefore, we begin by listening. As we work alongside neighbors, we listen to their needs so that we can respond accordingly. This type of relationship building and collaboration is critical for community sustainability.

strong relationships build community


The FamilyPlex is a product of collaboration. Students conceptualized the facility, and the designs began with knocking on doors and developing focus groups. Today, the FamilyPlex is a 42,500 square-foot complex in the heart of East Garfield Park. It holds classrooms, a fitness center, the Bridge Cafe, a gymnasium, and a medical clinic. It stands as one of the few pieces of new infrastructure to develop here since the riots in the 1960s. Because of the collaboration of parents, students, elders, and other community stakeholders, the FamilyPlex is now a community hub.

Further, we recognize relationships also have the potential to bring social capital into the lives of students, families, and adults. These relationships are not just friendly conversations. Relationships, when combined with hard work and skill-building, provide real opportunities for upward mobility. 

I learned first-hand growing up that every time I landed a good job or received a great opportunity, it was because someone I had a relationship with vouched for me. I’ve learned a simple truth: people are more likely to advocate for someone they know and trust than someone they don’t. In a community like ours, the cultivation of strong relationships like these leads to financial, intellectual, and social progress. 


Practicing a Network Model is one of our key concepts. This model builds networks of support for individuals by proving mentorship, access, exposure, and accountability. It surrounds people with necessary support and develops social capital and pathways to resources and opportunities.

strong relationships build community

I’m reminded of a student named Jacob. Jacob was in the fourth grade at a local elementary school and loved robots, but his school didn’t have funding for a robotics program. Jacob’s mom heard about Breakthrough and our program. After joining, he gained skills and experiences in the areas of coding, engineering, and math. Years later, Jacob applied to college not only with his skills, but also with relationships that provided guidance, letters of support, and encouragement. Jacob was awarded a full-ride scholarship, and he currently studies engineering. Jacob’s relationships, his network, and his hard-earned skills led him to a place where he could better himself and, therefore, his community.


However, our relationship with Jacob doesn’t stop there. We surround Jacob and individuals like him with resources to help them succeed. For example, our community-wide Trunk Party helps students prepare for college. We believe that strong networks supply individuals with support as they take steps to transform their lives. When Jacob goes to college, he owns his own success and knows he has people who stand behind him. 

When it comes to community, I think of the adage “it takes a village,” in terms of the difference networks can make. Each person needs the support of networks within their community to tap into their true potential. When we are bridgemakers, we honor the ability each person has to be the change that transforms their neighborhood. Strong relationships stand at the center of it all.

When we are bridgemakers, we honor the ability each person has to be the change that transforms their neighborhood. Click To Tweet