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Meet Jennifer and Ivan Avila of Breakthrough Learning Center in Yorba Linda

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jennifer and Ivan Avila.

Jennifer and Ivan, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
Breakthrough Learning Center started in 2009, originally named Gestalt Tutoring Services, in a home setting in the neighborhoods of Yorba Linda. When we first started off, I just started my Master’s Program at Chapman University. I was studying Psychology with an emphasis on Marriage and Family Therapy to pursue my dreams of becoming a psychologist. My husband was working at Alvord Unified School District as a high school math teacher and basketball coach. Naturally, we love working with people and helping them find solutions to anything- whether it be school, life, or on the courts. In the past, I worked at many tutoring centers, but there wasn’t any center that shared the same strong passion in working with kids and aiding in their growth as I had. My husband and I wanted to create something that could help these kids grow to their fullest potential along with mentoring them through life’s challenges as they go through important stages of their life. We decided to start tutoring kids around the neighborhood of Yorba Linda, which was where we currently resided. We went to Ikea, bought 4 desks and 4 chairs, and placed it into our home to create a classroom setup. We started off with two students, a neighbor and my brother. This was our start and we were ready for the hard work.

About three years later, I completed my Master’s program and we had to make one of the biggest decisions in our lives. My time was limited so I had to decide whether I wanted to pursue working in the psychology field (a deep passion that I have) or actually invest in a learning center. In my heart, there was something telling me that I needed to stick with these students who I saw almost everyday, now going into four years of knowing them and seeing them grow through these years. I couldn’t leave them hanging as I wanted to help them pursue their dreams and live a life without limitations.

Nervous and excited, we decided to take the risk. We took that chance of opening up a learning center to see where it would go. We told ourselves that if we help these kids reach their fullest potential and reach their dreams, that was all the success in the world for us. We opened a learning center in Yorba Linda, within a mile from our home setting. Two years later, we opened another set of classrooms in a different suite due to word of mouth and the demands for students who wanted to be part of this Breakthrough Family we created.

This past year was one of the most emotional and hardest years as the students we started off with at Gestalt Tutoring Services (6 + more years) were now graduating and leaving off to college to begin this limitless life they worked hard for. These students became my own brothers and sisters as we saw each other go through both good times and bad times. We experienced so many important life moments together that it would be hard not to call them my family. They saw us from our engagement, to our wedding, to finishing my graduate program, to building the learning center and seeing the growth, to knowing my own family members and my dogs, to seeing our first home. It has been such a beautiful, amazing, and inspirational walk in life to go through. Everyday ,we are amazed by these students and truly are inspired to keep reaching out to as many students as we can.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Has it been a smooth road? No, but we have been thankful, appreciative, and blessed with the development of this learning center that we take in every challenge as a huge learning experience for ourselves and for the learning center. Through this experience, we have learned about many different business aspects of learning centers, developed a psychology infused methodology at Breakthrough, learned to build a stronger understanding for diverse student and parent populations and personalities, and learned to create a balance between work and having a life. One of the hardest challenges for me was creating a balance between your heart, passion, and the business. As this business is built from heart, and continued with strong altruistic passion, sometimes it can get tough for me to create a balance and not overwork myself. Learning to create that balance throughout the years has truly taught me about how to run the business efficiently with meaning and purpose along with teaching me about myself and who I was becoming.

Please tell us about Breakthrough Learning Center.
Breakthrough Learning Center is a family-oriented, private learning center. We provide academic support along with diverse classes for grade levels K-12 in all subjects offered by the California State Common Core Standards curriculum. Psychological learning concepts along with the new Common Core standards are implemented in our curriculums at Breakthrough Learning Center. In order to aid students in life, we work through all factors that create the student’s systematic world. Not only do we aid students in their schoolwork, but we also mentor our students so they create effective life skills such as communication, teamwork, or building confidence.

With over 10 years of experience in working with students from Placentia Yorba Linda School District, Anaheim School District, Brea School District, Orange School District, Fullerton School District, and Alvord Unified School District, we understand each school’s curriculum, along with the expectations for each grade level and subject of matter. Students get ahead in a subject or focus on a weakness to create a stronger foundation at their grade level or above their grade level for advancement. Students also work on different exciting projects that spark interest, create strong foundations in subjects to build confidence, and interact in the learning experience with other students to build lifelong skills and networks that will create pathways to success. We create a strong learning environment that will be enjoyable and memorable for our kids.

What we are most proud of at Breakthrough is that our instructors are role models who bring out the highest potential in students, motivate students, and inspire students to work for their future through a strong foundation in education along with life skills to help them succeed. Our main goal is to help our students in every aspect of their life – we learn about our students’ stories, where they come from, what they went through growing up, and help them self-reflect to see how these events impacted their growth as a person.

Inspiration is the key here. We are inspired everyday by our students and hope to be an inspiration in their life. We want the best for our students and we truly are a family, as many of our students, we have known for 6 or more years. Creating change within our community is one step closer to creating change in this world.

If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
If we had to start over, we wouldn’t change anything. We are completely blessed with everything that has come our way- positive or negative, as each experience teaches us more about life. We feel truly humbled with every single moment that we have with the learning center and excited to continue to create more amazing moments with the learning center’s growth, our instructors, our students, and our community.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Le Secret D’Audrey Paris Photo
Ivan Avila
Jennifer Dinh-Avila

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