MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Breakthrough Miami is an academic program where bright students in under served schools are able to be tutored and helped to reach their goals of graduating high school and get into college.

17-year-old high school senior Gerbenn Seraphin and his mentor Webber Charles, director of student achievement at Breakthrough Miami, feel most at home walking the streets of Little Haiti.

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Though not related, the two are both Haitian and formed a bond the minute they met when Gerbenn was in elementary school.

“I remember in 2nd grade, I met someone by the name of Webber Charles who was the chess coach at the time and he grew up in Little Haiti,” said Gerbenn. “I felt like we had a similar bond and in the fifth grade, I mean in elementary school I wasn’t doing so well.”

A few years later Webber began working at Breakthrough Miami.

Breakthrough uses a student-teaching-students model to make sure bright, under-resourced middle school students have access to excellent high school opportunities, graduate and attend college.

Breakthrough scholars begin the program in the summer before 5th grade and remain in the program until graduation from high school.

Webber knew he had to bring this smart boy in.

17-year-old high school senior Gerbenn Seraphin and his mentor Webber Charles, director of student achievement at breakthrough Miami, feel most at home walking the streets of Little Haiti. (Source: CBS4)

“Fortunately for me, Gerbenn listened to me,” said Webber. “Gerbenn’s father listened to me after much negotiation,  much cajoling  and saying look you want Gerbenn to be in this space , he followed through.”

“I remember Webber coming in with a group of other people from this program called Breakthrough Miami,” said Gerbenn. “For me, I was just like I’m not doing anything for my summer anyway. I was just gonna chill in my neighborhood. Like, let me go and try to do something productive that’s outside my shell.”

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The program currently serves 1,300 middle and high school students.

The Breakthrough program took Gerbenn beyond the only neighborhood he knew, Little Haiti, and into a teaching program where he quickly soared.

“That’s what breakthrough really did for me that the first time I really got to sit in a classroom with different individuals that were a different color, different race than me, and it really taught me a lot,” he said.

Now a graduating senior, Gerbenn received a full academic scholarship to the University of Miami where he’ll start in fall.

He’s also mentoring young kids himself paying it forward thanks to the mentor who helped him.

“While he’s mentoring me I’m mentoring these little kids,” Gerbenn said. “I don’t know the impact I’m really having on these kids and I feel like Webber isn’t understanding the impact he’s had on me.”

“Oh my God Gerbenn, his potential is endless,” said Webber. “For me, Gerbenn’s story is the story of many Haitian Americans in South Florida and there are many stories to be told. I’m just happy that I’m here to be able to tell Gerbenn’s story and that he can be a shining example for all of the Haitian Americans in Miami-Dade County.”

Webber was recently honored with the African American Achievers Award for 2019 in the category of Education.

As for Gerbenn, he’s hoping to open a recording studio for students so they can create positive messages through music.

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Lisa Petrillo