Mary Esselman


Operation Breakthrough

As a 35-year veteran of urban education, Mary Esselman has a wealth of experience that comes from innovating in schools. She has worked with a wide range of students—pre-K up to age 20—and has worked to disrupt traditional public schooling in urban neighborhoods in Washington DC, Chicago, Kansas City, and Detroit. Mary is in her 9th year as CEO of Operation Breakthrough and leads one of the largest early learning centers in the region which extends from cradle to career. She is continuing the Founders tradition of integrating education, social services and health with innovative programming including early STEM, yoga, and music therapy to ensure every child has the opportunity to reach his/her full potential. Most recently she has spearheaded two capital expansions which include a 20,000 sq. ft. MakerCity for students in Kindergarten through 8th grade and an 8000 sq. ft. workforce development and entrepreneurship program in STEM, The Ignition Lab, which serves over 300 urban teens in areas including 2D/3D modeling, green tech, computer tech, digital media and graphic design, automotive and engineering, mechatronics, etc.