When dreaming about your personal goals or of being successful, believing that you can make it happen is half of the battle. This mental challenge is a reality for everyone, though it can be a greater challenge for Hispanic youth, especially those who have no family member who has already taken the path of higher education and a professional career.
The locally founded Puente Project addresses many of the challenges Hispanic students face. Its mission is to increase the number of students who enroll in four-year colleges and universities, earn college degrees, and return to the community as mentors and leaders of future generations. On May 9th, a celebration event was held for the 35th anniversary of the Puente Project, which is a source of local pride for people in the Hayward area as the program has expanded from its success at Chabot College to 56 community colleges and 36 high schools throughout California.
The Puente Project was started at Chabot College in Hayward by co-directors Felix Galaviz and Patricia McGrath. Galaviz was concerned about the high drop-out rate of Latino students on campus and committed himself to studying the problem and creating solutions. He and McGrath developed a new English writing class and brought more cultural material into the class, specifically literature by Latino writers. He also sought the volunteer help of Hispanic professionals in the community to be mentors for the students.
Juliet N. Garcia moved from Mexico two years ago and now is an enthusiastic Puente student in Chabot College in Hayward. “Puente was the perfect pathway for me in many ways,” she says. “This program opened various doors for me that were not there before I started college.”
The counseling and mentoring Puente provides is vital for the students' success, as Garcia shares, “Puente isn’t just another learning experience, it is a space for creating community and sharing diverse experiences and points of view with different individuals who come from many different backgrounds. Puente has made me aware of the fact that being a minority student does not mean I cannot achieve great things”.
Students like the fact that there is a program that supports them in figuring out their goals. With the volunteer mentors, students really appreciate that there are people who take the time to talk with them about what it takes to be successful.
“Having the opportunity to be a part of Puente has changed me from an undecided student to a confident and excelling individual”, Garcia said.
Puente is open to all students. Results include:
• Over 5,500 students have enrolled in the Puente community college program. • Over 2,000 professionals donate over 18,000 hours annually to Puente students. • An estimated 200,000 non-Puente students have benefited from Puente’s staff development programs. • Community colleges with Puente programs transfers 44% more Latino students to the University of California than colleges without Puente.
For more information about the Puente Project visit www.puente.net.
Vision Hispana Newspaper | Tel: 510-863-4982 P.O. Box 1411. Alameda, CA 94501