Breaking Through 2011: What's a Breaking Through Speech?

From its beginning in 2008, the annual Genesys Works Breaking Through celebration has been both centered around and led by our students. The core of their involvement is the Breaking Through Speech, spoken stories of dreams, obstacles, change, and triumph.

Each year, 3-4 Young Professionals are selected to tell their Breaking Through Story--one of the highest honors they can earn through their time in the program. Here, we share excerpts of Breaking Through Stories that were in the running to be chosen, as well as videos of classic speeches from years past. Inspired? Learn more about this year's celebration here, or RSVP today.

Armani Black, Johnson High School '12
When I think of Genesys Works, author Ayn Rand comes to mind. "Success isn't driven by the desire to beat others, but by the desire to achieve." This quote is essential to me because all my life, I had to fight. I know it sounds like a line from "The Color Purple," but it's actually true. I haven't had to physically fight, but I did in other ways.

Being an African-American female hasn't gotten me too far in life. In order to stand out and succeed, I had to work harder than most would expect. I have tried to join every student group or school club offered at Johnson Sr. High. I was accepted to and a member of National Honor Society, Multicultural Excellence Program, and tennis team. I am the Vice President of the Student Council and captain of the Math Team. I don't say this to boast or brag, but I say it to show you that I'm not just some kid that slacked off for the first three years of high school and stumbled across Genesys Works. I've always been an overachiever, not by choice, but because I have to. Being Black, not my last name, but my race, makes most of my peers overlook me. Being female makes most of our society deaf to me. I make a voice for myself through my accomplishments.

Zaini Sharif-Mohamed, South High School '12

Someone once told me it’s not where you come from but instead who you are and Genesys Works been a great attributor to helping me find who I am. As a young Somali kid growing up in south side Minneapolis I learned the struggle the hard way having a single mother raise me and my little brother alone at the same time working two jobs and cooking for a restaurant just to make money so she can bring my dad to America too.

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” – Winston Churchill Genesys Works has helped me learn that when you fail you got to get back up and have the courage to continue and that success is never final because there is so much in this world I can achieve and with that I will “BREAK THROUGH” and achieve it.

Tha Dah Loo, Como Park High School '12
"I was born in Burma, a poor country in South East Asia that is being controlled by a dictator.  My family moved to a Thai refugee camp when I was five years old because we could no longer find a safe place to live in Burma.  Life was hard in the refugee camp.  We couldn’t get out of the camp without special permission from the Thai guards. We received very little food such as rice, beans, and other cheap southeast Asian food.  My mother sewed clothes and sold them to make money, and my dad worked illegally in Bangkok.  My dad visited us once every two to three months because it was not easy for him to travel around Thailand.  My whole family moved illegally into Bangkok in 2003, and we filed paperwork to come to the U.S.  We were sponsored by “World Relief” and moved to the U.S. in 2004. After six dull and challenging years of living in Thailand, we finally put our feet onto the land of freedom and hope.  We were happy and excited to explore the new world, but we didn’t realize that this was just the beginning of our journey.

I was ten years old when my family moved to the U.S. and I spoke very little English.  I started school in the fifth grade, at Wellstone Elementary.  My first year of school in the U.S. was unforgettable.  The worst thing for me back then was going to school and feeling like a deaf person.  I had no friends and I was scared to talk to anyone.  Everywhere I went, I felt like all eyes were staring at me as if I am a green alien from another planet.  The only friend I had was my ELL teacher named Ms. Anderson. 

I [decided to] take more responsibility for my education.  I was able to do extracurricular activities in and out of school. I was able to join the Badminton team, Admission Possible, Big Brothers Big Sisters, and I was able to Join Genesys Works."

Sydney Hunter, Como Park High School '11

Juan Puentes, Humboldt High School '09

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