Our Leadership Staff
Alicia Rodriguez Bower
Alicia Rodriguez Bower, a lifelong educator, joined Breakthrough in 2009. A graduate of Purdue University, she holds a Bachelor’s degree in English and Spanish, and received her Master’s Degree in School Administration and Leadership at Indiana University. She also attended Ball State University for advanced studies.
Alicia was Founding Principal of the first Spanish Immersion Magnet program in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. She has been the recipient of the First Lady of Ft. Wayne Award, conferred by the Ft. Wayne Women’s Bureau; the Indiana/Purdue University FAST Program Achievement Award; the Realizing the Dream Award given the by the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities in the State of Indiana; Outstanding Teaching Award given by the University of Chicago; YWCA Woman of Achievement Award, and Outstanding Spanish Teacher Award given by Indiana University.
Alicia is a native of Havana, Cuba, and left her country when she was 11. She lived in Mexico and Venezuela before moving with her family to Indiana. She has dedicated her career to providing educational experiences that are creative and relevant to students, and to holding all students to the highest academic expectations.
Director of Strategic Development
Elissa Vanaver, an award-winning newspaper editor and media executive, joined the Breakthrough Miami staff in 2011, after many years as a member of the Breakthrough Miami Board of Directors – including Founding Board Chair. Before joining the staff, Elissa was Vice President of Human Resources and Assistant to the Publisher for the Miami Herald Media Company, responsible for workforce development, strategic planning, community affairs and corporate communications. She directed several of The Herald’s signature programs, including the Silver Knight Awards, the Herald Charities’ WishBook and Operation Helping Hands. Prior to 2002, Elissa was Managing Editor in The Miami Herald newsroom, where she was part of a Herald team that won the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News. Elissa holds Bachelor’s degree with High Distinction from the University of Virginia, and a Master’s degree from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. She is a member of Phi Beta Kappa has completed the Kellogg Graduate School of Management’s Advanced Executive Program.
Ariel Edwards, Senior Site Director
Breakthrough Miami at Palmer Trinity School
Ariel is a graduate of Miami Central Senior High and Florida State University, where she received a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and Business. She started her educational career in 2005 as a Language Arts teacher in Miami-Dade County Public Schools, and has been with Breakthrough Miami since 2009.
Jeneen Garcia, Senior Site Director
Breakthrough Miami at Carrollton School of the Sacred Heart
Jeneen joined Breakthrough Miami 2008. Prior to that, she worked as a project associate for the Bronx Institute at Lehman College under the U.S. Department of Education Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP), where she developed academic enrichment programs for under-served youth. She is a graduate of Wesleyan University, where she spent summers teaching in the Summerbridge (now Breakthrough) program in Concord, Mass. She holds a Master’s in Public Administration and Education Policy from Columbia University’s School for International and Public Affairs. She also has worked at the Academy for Educational Development and in the Office of Multiple Pathways to Graduation at the New York City Department of Education.
Lauren Kellner, Senior Site Director
Breakthrough Miami at Ransom Everglades School
Lauren joined the Breakthrough Miami team in 2007. Prior to that, she worked for Miami-Dade County Public Schools as a special education and gifted teacher at F. S. Tucker Elementary.. Lauren graduated from the University of Miami, where she earned a Bachelor of Science in Education degree and a Master’s of Education in Special Education and Reading.
Jamael Stewart, Senior Site Director
Breakthrough Miami at Miami Country Day School/The Cushman School
Jamael joined Breakthrough Miami in 2007. He attended Bethune- Cookman College in Daytona Beach, FL on an academic/athletic scholarship. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Educational Studies in the spring of 2005. He is the co-founder of Prep and Sports Inc, a non-profit organization in Delray Beach that mentors young men in the classroom and on the playing field. Jamael was assistant director with South Florida Summerbridge at Saint Andrew’s School in Boca Raton before coming to Breakthrough Miami.
Jennifer Mojica, Site Director
Breakthrough Miami College Bound Program (high school)
Jennifer is a graduate of Florida State University where she received a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education. She started her career in her hometown of Orlando, FL, before joining Teach For America and relocating to Miami. While working for TFA, Jennifer was nominated for Rookie Teacher of the Year in 2010 and 2011 and led professional development sessions for teachers in the Education Transformation Office with Miami-Dade County Public Schools. She joined Breakthrough Miami full-time in 2012.