Breakthrough Programming Director Jessica Manzano-Valdez is a great addition to Fort Worth Country Day.


Photo Courtesy by Rudi Flores

Jessica Manzano-Valdez, the Breakthrough Programming Director, works at home after a long day working at school.

Manzano-Valdez was a Breakthrough student when she was in seventh grade. 

“I decided to join Breakthrough,” Manzano-Valdez said. “My mom did not know anything about it until I told her I had applied and was accepted and needed her to take me to orientation at the UT Austin campus on Saturday.”

Breakthrough is about supporting high-achieving students in the Fort Worth area who are under-resourced underserved for various reasons. It is a place to help students in this position achieve their highest goals. 

“I had a wonderful experience going through the program,” Manzano-Valdez said, “while I was a student in Breakthrough, I went to a school in Austin, TX. That’s where I’m originally from. For high school, I did go to St. Stephen’s Episcopal School, which is a school in SPC and ISAS, so I had heard of FWCD while I was in high school.”

“The best memory I have as a Breakthrough student was at my college graduation banquet. It was a celebration of everyone who was a BT student and graduated in 2017. I celebrated a big accomplishment with my friends, BT students. We had been on the journey to be first in our families to graduate from college since 6th grade, and we had accomplished that,” Manzano-Valdez said. 

She graduated from Pomona College in Claremont with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and a minor in Latin American Studies. 

“As Programming Director for BTFW, my best memory is Fun Day 2021. Fun Day is a special event during week 5 of our program. There are water balloons; students bring water guns, there’s a slip and slide. It was so much fun to experience so much joy with our seventh and eighth graders last summer and to see them take a break from the rigorous academic classes they’ve had to take all summer,” Manzano-Valdez said. 

Breakthrough Operations Director Rudi Flores was a teacher in Austin, while Manzano-Valdez was a student. 

“She is incredible,” Flores said. “Our kids loved her immediately, and they gravitated towards her. She is very knowledgeable about what they need to be successful.” 

She taught sixth ELA at Leonard Middle School for two years, Geometry for one year at Uplift Mighty, and sixth ELA again at IDEA Edgecliff. All of the students there were part of the Fort Worth community. They were several of the breakthrough students that Manzano-Valdez taught. 

“It was a lot of fun telling them that they weren’t done with me at the end of the school year and will see me over the summer,” Manzano-Valdez said.

She worked as an instructional coach for three summers, working with the teachers. She mentioned to one of the other teachers that worked at FWCD that she’d love to work with Breakthrough year-round so she could make it hers. 

The position opened up when one of her colleagues left and told her about the work, and now she is the program director. 

 “It’s a blessing that she was able to be part of the program,” Director of Breakthrough Joseph Breedlove said. “While she was in her previous position, she was top-notch. And when you get an opportunity to grab someone like that, you do it. She invested more in the program than you can ever imagine and epitomizes what the programs are about.”