If Emiliana Nixon decides being an entrepreneur or criminal prosecutor isn’t her career goal after all, she might seriously consider hosting the Oscars, if not filling Oprah Winfrey’s talk show shoes. But the poised and articulate sixth-grader at Citizens Academy has some time to decide.

In the meantime, she owned the sold-out audience of 1,000 supporters that filled a Hilton Cleveland Downtown ballroom for the eighth annual Breakthrough Bash. “Milie,” as she’s known, shared emcee honors with the equally charming Teon Smith, a St. Edward High School senior and alumni of the college prep charter school system.

Organized by the Friends of Breakthrough Schools, the evening featured Citizens Academy students talking matter-of-factly about lofty dreams. Testaments came from second-grader Xavier Nixon, yes, Milie’s little brother, who wants to be a paleontologist and hopes to bring back dinosaurs “so everyone has the chance to enjoy them.” Jahna Harris, now in seventh grade, hopes to be a lawyer or work at NASA, helping other young girls along the way.

Alumnus Juwan Shabazz graduates with a degree in geology from The College of Wooster this spring, and hopes to improve our treatment of the environment. Even Teon Smith, the St. Ed’s linebacker for the 2018 Division I state football champions, teared up as he thanked his mother for her support during his Breakthrough education through St. Eds and on to college, then hopefully a career in investment banking.

Proceeds from the Breakthrough Bash support the charter network’s 11 nonprofit, tuition-free schools, with an enrollment of 3,400 students in kindergarten through eighth grade in Cleveland’s underserved neighborhoods. Plans to add at least 300 more students came closer to fruition with this year’s event: the live auction alone raised $290,450, about enough to open up 10 more classrooms. STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY PEGGY TURBETT

Breakthrough alumnus Teon Smith, left, checks auction returns as co-emcee Emiliana Nixon encourages the 1,000+ attendees to support the Breakthrough Schools network.

The Classical Guitar Group from Citizens Leadership Academy serenades arriving patrons.

Christina Townsend Hartz and Tracy Wilhelm, Breakthrough Bash co-chairs

Alan Rosskamm, CEO, Breakthrough Schools; John Zitzner, president, Friends of Breatkthrough Schools; and Dr. Akram Boutros, president and CEO, The MetroHealth System

Brent and Cary Zimmermann, Natalie and Chris Ronayne, and Lauren Rich Fine

Jahna Harris, Breakthrough School seventh-grader, describes her goals of becoming a lawyer or working at NASA.