A Breakthrough Moment

In my last post, I mentioned some of the challenges of the past week.  Luckily some wonderful news from back home really made it all better:  On its 10 p.m. news, Kare 11 ran a story about Breakthrough Saint Paul and three of the five students from our program that have won the amazing Jack Kent Cooke Young Scholars award.  It completely made my week seeing our students and our program highlighted. 

Just because I do not know if it will be removed from the Kare 11 website, I’ve decided to paste it (and the pictures from the news story) all here for you to read.  Unfortunately, there is not video online yet, but I have word that the BSP staff is working on it.

Tho, the first student from BSP (and MN) to win the award.
Tho, the first student from BSP (and MN) to win the award.
My was one of two winners from BSP and MN this year.  She happens to be Tho's brother.
My was one of two winners from BSP and MN this year. She happens to be Tho’s sister.
Loriya was the second student from BSP and MN to win the award this year.

Loriya was the second student from BSP and MN to win the award this year.


Huge Scholarship Changes Lives in St. Paul
By Jeff Olson, Kare 11 News

ST. PAUL, Minn. – Two students from a local St. Paul education program have been named Jack Kent Cooke Young Scholars, making available to them hundreds of thousands of dollars for turning their academic dreams into careers.

The 8th graders are part of Breakthrough St. Paul, a tuition-free, academic enrichment program that helps highly-motivated, resource-challenged middle school students succeed in high school and college. While enrolled in the weekend and summer program, students also look for other educational opportunities. Among the most prestigious, the Jack Kent Cooke Young Scholars Program, which is designed to help students with a financial need make their educational goals a reality.

Inside Breakthrough St. Paul

It’s Saturday morning and class is in session at Breakthrough St. Paul.

“Breakthrough St. Paul is so special, because everyone involved in this program knows that it changes lives,” Breakthrough St. Paul Student and Family Liaison Ashley Cooper     said.

Based at Mounds Park Academy, Breakthrough St. Paul is a weekend and summer program that gives highly-motivated students extra learning time. The program offers a six-year, tuition-free experience to kids who are facing various resource challenges.

“Students come here, they walk out of here every day, that you can see they’ve learned something useful, a perspective has changed in some way,” Cooper continued.

While students are gaining perspective in St. Paul, they’re also looking for opportunities beyond Breakthrough.

“Our founding director made it a little bit a part of our culture. We will have every student apply for at least one scholarship or contest every year,” Cooper said.

Among the most amazing of those scholarships is the Jack Kent Cooke Young Scholars Program, which literally makes dreams come true.

The story of Jack Kent Cooke and the Young Scholars Program

Backed by the fortune that Jack Kent Cooke made in the broadcasting and sports industries, the Young Scholars Program is, in some ways, both a blank slate and a blank check for students.

“Pretty much, the scholarship provides individual support from when they get to 8th grade all the way through grad school, medical school, whatever they decide to do in life,” Cooper explained.

The Jack Kent Cooke Young Scholars Program allows students to dream big – really big – about their futures, without worrying about the price tag. The scholarship comes with a personal advisor to figure out a student’s best educational plan and access to upwards of $300,000 to make it happen.

“So it could be things like studying abroad, private violin lessons or even going to a private school,” Cooper explained.

St. Paul students earn Cooke Young Scholarships

If it’s hard to wrap your adult brain around a scholarship that gives access to six figures of funding and a personal advisor for planning your future, imagine what it’s like for an 8th grader.

“It was a big shock,” Cooke Young Scholar Loriya Thao said.
Loriya and Breakthrough St. Paul classmate My Bui have both been named Cooke Young Scholars.

“It was just unbelievable,” My said smiling.  “I don’t even know how to explain it to my friends, because it’s so individual. They let you choose what you want to do.”

She might not know how to explain the seemingly limitless options offered by the scholarship, but My has some great ideas about how to use the award. That’s because her brother, Tho Bui, is also a Jack Kent Cooke Scholar.

“The first thing we did was we stayed in Paris for three days,” Tho said while explaining one of the things he’s done with the scholarship money.  “It didn’t sink in as much, until I got the France trip.”

Tho says that $5,000 trip to France would have been out of the question without the Young Scholars Program.

“Not to be cliché, but it changed my life,” Tho said. “It’s opened up huge possibilities.”

Currently a student at Mounds Park Academy, and a teacher at Breakthrough St. Paul, Tho is on his way to becoming a college professor. His advice to his sister My is don’t wait to start making your dreams come true.

“And she starts realizing all the things she can do freshman year, then she has four great years of things that she will be able to do,” Tho said.

Loriya says the program has already allowed her to get Internet access at her house, which makes studying much easier. She says she’d like to use the scholarship funds for music lessons and for education that will help her one day become a forensic scientist.

“I’ve always had a dream of becoming a baby doctor or a pediatrician,” My said when asked about what she’d like to be when she grows up. “And I figured medical school, grad school, how am I going to pay for that?”

Thanks to the Jack Kent Cooke Young Scholars Program, the worry of how to pay for that education has been replaced for My with the much better question of where to get it.

“Now I know it’s possible,” My said. “I can try my best in high school, get straight As, make my way to college, become a doctor, all thanks to the scholarship.”



  1. Jeff and Tian,

    What a nice “warm and fuzzy” moment. It doesn’t often happen that you hear positive “make a difference” results like this and it is nice that you did. Congratulations to both of you!

  2. Yes!!!

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