Concerned about the low percentage of Latino and Mexican American community college students who transferred to four-year universities, Felix Galaviz and Patricia McGrath launched the Puente Project in 1981.The mission — increase the number of educationally underserved students who enroll in four-year universities, earn degrees and return to their communities as mentors.
Galaviz, then a counselor at Chabot College in Hayward, Calif., and McGrath, an English instructor at the college, noticed that many of their Latino students were not fairing well in school because they were not seeing their counselors on a regular basis; they were performing poorly in their English classes; and had few role models to look to for motivation or to help them advance to the next level of their education. After identifying the specific needs of the students, Galaviz and McGrath decided to include three main components to their program: a writing program focused on Latino literature, academic counseling and community mentoring.
In 1993, Puente, Spanish for “bridge,” was established in several high schools in California. Today the program’s mission has expanded to help educationally disadvantaged students of all races and ethnicities, but the majority of the Puente participants remain Latino. The program can now be found at 56 community colleges and 36 high schools in California, and according to Frank Garcia, the current executive director of Puente, the program directly serves approximately 10,000 students a year.
The program has earned national awards and is sponsored by the University of California Office of the President and California Community Colleges. For more information, visit <www.puente.net>.
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