It’s no exaggeration to say that the Puente Project is revolutionizing education for students everywhere. As an innovative college readiness program that primarily supports first-generation Latinx students, Puente has provided accessibility and pathways to higher education across diverse communities and beyond.
Puente has been opening many doors of opportunity by fostering academic and social growth, cultivating leadership skills, building successful transitions from high school to college—and constructing bridges to learning success in all aspects of life.
In this blog post, we’ll explore how the Puente Program is transforming educational outcomes for Latinx students.
What is the Puente Project?
Put briefly, the Puente Project is a college-readiness program founded in 1981 at Chabot Community College in Hayward, California. It has since grown to become a nationally recognized, award-winning program renowned for its success with educationally underrepresented students.
The goal of the Puente Project is twofold: to increase the number of Latinx students who enroll in four-year colleges and universities and to help them earn college degrees that will equip them to return to their community as mentors and leaders of future generations.
The Puente Program employs three main components in its mission: writing, counseling, and mentoring. These elements work together to provide an interdisciplinary approach to education that can be customized for each student’s needs.
Through these components, students are provided with outreach and academic support, personalized guidance, and a range of learning opportunities. The Puente Program is committed to helping its students reach their fullest potential by providing the necessary tools to do so.
The Impact of the Puente Project
Since its inception in 1981, the Puente Project has positively impacted thousands of students’ lives. Over the years, it has expanded to serve seven middle schools, 36 high schools, and 65 community colleges throughout California, with its staff training program benefiting approximately 300,000 students.
It has also been credited for the increase in Latinx student enrollment and graduation rates at 4-year universities across the nation.
What Students does the Puente Project Serve?
As the chart displays, the Puente Projects serves students from first-generation, low-income, and underrepresented backgrounds.
84% of Puente students come from households with parents who have not earned a Bachelor’s degree, and almost 90% are regarded as low-income individuals according to their fee waivers or Pell Grants.
Why the Puente Project Matters
The Puente Project’s value is evident in its three positive impacts on students, particularly underrepresented students.
Improving Education Outcomes
First and foremost, the Puente Project helps improve Latinx students’ educational outcomes. Through mentorship programs, cultural enrichment activities, and other support services,
Puente provides resources that enhance a student’s learning experience. These resources promote retention and graduation, subsequently increasing the probability that a student finishes college with a bachelor’s degree in hand.
Successful Completion of Transfer-Level Coursework
Studies have highlighted the critical role of transfer-level English in optimizing college students’ chances of acquiring a higher education credential or transitioning into another institution.
Early completion of the fundamental course (like transfer-level English and Math) has been confirmed as an essential marker towards achieving that goal.
When looking at the Puente Project, the achievement of Puente students taking transfer-level English classes is demonstrably higher than the statewide average – 77% of Puente participants passed it in their first year at college, compared to only 36% for all CCC pupils.
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Puente Students Have Higher Transfer Rates
The success of Puente students enrolling in transfer-level English courses lends itself to the fact that they have an incredible success rate of 52% when transferring to four-year institutions.
This outstanding figure is much more successful than the statewide average for all community college students in California, which sits at a mere 39%.
Empowering and Supporting the Latinx Community
The Puente Project also helps give Latinx students the empowering feeling that they can succeed in higher education. The project cultivates an environment that promotes college readiness and provides resources that encourage greater persistence and study habits that foster academic success.
Although not exclusive to members of the Latinx community, the origins of the Puente Project were centered around empowering and supporting members of the Mexican American and Latino communities.
Founders Felix Galaviz and Patricia McGrath established a grassroots program to combat the concerning academic success rate among Mexican American and Latino students.
To comprehend why these learners were prematurely dropping out, they reviewed more than 2,000 student transcripts. Through their review process, three key patterns among Latinos emerged:
- A refusal to seek counsel from academic advisors
- An unwillingness to sign-up for college writing course offerings
- Being the initial member in their family that attended college
The Puente model was formulated to counteract the persistent patterns of educational failure among at-risk Latino youth. This threefold approach includes intensive language arts instruction, ongoing academic counseling, and mentorship for civic leadership advancement.
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The program helps bridge the divide between academic and social development by fostering mentorship, building leadership skills, and creating successful transitions from high school to college.
It is also an important source of support for the Latinx community; it provides a safe space for students to discuss their challenges and opportunities to learn vital life skills to help them succeed in college.
Building a Pathway to College Success for Underrepresented Students
Puente has shown to be a major asset in providing underrepresented students with access to higher education and creating better educational outcomes.
It has been credited for the increased Latinx student enrollment and graduation rates at four-year universities across the nation, proving Puente’s commitment to helping advance its students down a path of college success.
For example, from 2013 to 2017, most Puente students chose a CSU college as their destination (58%), while 25% opted for UC.
This impressive increase from 14% shows that the program’s efforts have effectively prepared its participants for higher education beyond community colleges.
Puente Project Frequently Asked Questions
What are the goals of the Puente Project?
The goal of the Puente Project is twofold:
- To increase the number of Latinx students who enroll in four-year colleges and universities.
- To help them earn college degrees that will equip them to return to their community as mentors and leaders of future generations.
Puente translates to “bridge” in Spanish, and Puente gives students the assistance they need to construct a bridge of opportunity directly toward higher education.
The Puente Project has a clear goal: to increase the number of students transferring from community college into four-year institutions and help them earn their degrees.
The ultimate objective is that these scholars come back home as leaders who can share their newly acquired knowledge and skills with their communities.
How can I get involved with the Puente Project?
You can get involved with the Puente Project in various ways.
One way to support the Puente Project and its mission is by supporting them with tax-deductible donations. The donations received will support the Puente Project mission and operational costs, such as counseling, mentorship, and leadership workshops.
Become a Puente Mentor
Another way of getting involved with the Puente Project is to become a Puente Mentor. In collaboration with the Puente Counselor and English instructor, Puente Mentors possess a unique opportunity to influence their mentees’ lives by providing them access to social and cultural capital that is vital for academic success.
All mentors must complete a training program on appropriate standards of practice as part of their role so they are successful models for those they guide. Through observation, it has become evident that these mentor-mentee relationships can be highly beneficial if cultivated correctly.
Is Puente only for Latinx students?
No, the Puente Project is open to ALL students.
The Puente Project is an inclusive program ready to accept any student who wishes to participate. It provides a cross-cultural, cross-disciplinary approach as part of its initiative for student success and degree completion.
At the core of it lies social justice principles that honor all identities regardless of race, gender or sexuality. Through these values, Puente strives to provide equitable resources to students while they pursue their dreams.
In conclusion, the Puente Project is invaluable in transforming Latinx students’ educational outcomes. Its comprehensive approach to learning and support services provides the resources necessary to help these students succeed in all aspects of life.
By giving them access to vital tools such as mentorship programs, counseling sessions, and higher education opportunities, the Puente Project has enabled countless students to accomplish their dreams. It is a testament to its commitment and dedication that it continues to be an integral part of Latinx communities across the country.
The larger impact of the Puente Project is profound, and it will continue to make an invaluable difference in the lives of many people for generations to come.
We should all celebrate the incredible achievements made possible through the Puente Project and strive to ensure its success continues.
We can also support the Puente Project’s mission by donating time or money, advocating on behalf of the organization and its scholars, or simply educating others about its positive impact.
There is no limit to what we can do to help ensure the success of this incredible program. Together, we can make a difference in the lives of Latinx students and the communities they come from.