Jena's Story

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Jena Bradley described herself as a “shy and socially awkward” student, but one who loved school. When her mom signed her up for Summerbridge, Jena knew how hard her mom worked to create opportunities for her daughters, this was a big deal. Jena was nervous, but she convinced herself she’d just just fine since she loved school so much. It didn’t take long for Jena to come out of her shell, “at Summerbridge I did things I wouldn’t normally do-- like Irish dancing!” Jena recalls those elective experiences that broke up the day of intense academics.

It’s easy to see how special the program is to Jena when she talks about her teachers. She said “it was easier for us kids to connect with the teachers since they were closer in age to us.” Later, when I was a Teaching Fellow, I rode the bus to Walnut Hills with one of my summer students-- I remember thinking that was really cool to me at the time that we had all these shared experiences.”

Jena, who now leads community initiatives for the United Way of Greater Cincinnati, knows what real impact looks like. She works every day on complex problems related to poverty in our city. She says “I see how Breakthrough Cincinnati today instills social and emotional skills. It’s a place that is really positive, safe, empowering and fun. Kids don’t have enough of that these days.”

Julie Witten