The Puente ProjectSep 9, 11:15 PM

The goal of the Puente Community College Program is to increase the number of educationally underserved students who transfer to four-year colleges and universities, earn degrees, and return to the community as leaders and mentors to future generations. Puente (Spanish for “bridge”) is a national-award winning program that has helped thousands of students reach their dreams of college success. Puente was founded in 1981 by Felix Galaviz and Patricia McGrath at Chabot Community College in Hayward, California.

As Assistant Dean of Chabot College Felix Galaviz began research on the performance and persistence rate among students of color on campus, specifically Latinos. He collected data from 20,000 transcripts of these students in 1979. To his dismay the data collected exposed a disheartening performance and persistence rate among his study population. With 55% of Latino students dropping out in the first three weeks of the first quarter and another 20% dropping out at the end of the same quarter, Señor Galaviz was compelled to create a model program to address this crisis. Upon further investigation, the data pointed to three major factors that contributed to the high drop out rate among Latino students at Chabot.

  • The first was the avoidance of meeting with a college counselor.
  • Second, students would avoid completing the English courses.
  • And third, 98% of the Latino students were the first in their family to attend college.

Felix teamed with Patricia McGrath, former English professor at Chabot College, to develop a program that would specifically address these three academic factors. In accordance with Puente’s mission, the core components of participation for a Puente student remain the same today: 1)must meet with Puente counselor on a regular basis, 2)must commit to the program for a full year, and 3)make a commitment to work with their mentor and complete the associated writing assignments. Developing relationships with their counselor and mentor work to build a critical support network that students need in order to understand the value and importance of higher education. More important, students will create a student network that will serve them well into their future. In Puente “Once a Puentista, Always a Puentista” therefore, they will lead the next generation of Puente students.

The Puente model works:

Puente students are three times as likely to succeed (i.e., earn a grade of C or better) in pre-transfer-level English and 35% more likely to succeed in transfer-level English than are non-Puente community college students enrolled in such courses.

Nearly 90% of students are retained in community college for a year following participation in Puente; 73% are retained 2 years after completing the program

Between 1999 and 2003, Puente transfers to four-year institutions grew by 67%

In 2003, transfers to UC increased 55% from the previous year (73 to 116)1

Puente was one of ten programs selected from a national pool of over 1,400 to win the prestigious Innovations in American Government Award, a program of the Ford Foundation, the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, and the Council for Excellence in Government.

Puente was chosen as one of six model programs nationwide to help guide policy makers to improve college access and success by the Pathways to College Network, a national consortium of educational institutions, foundations and non-profit organizations. Chosen for its successful track record in “embracing the social, cultural and learning-style differences in developing learning environments and activities for underserved students,” Puente was chosen from among over 100 organizations studied by the Pathways Network for its report, A Shared Agenda: A Leadership Challenge to Improve College Access and Success, released February 2004.

Puente has been studied by numerous academic researchers, and was the focus of the entire September 2002 issue of the journal Educational Policy.

Since 1981, Puente has expanded to 54 community colleges and 36 high schools throughout California, and tens of thousands of students have been served2. Puente is open to ALL students.

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