Puente program supports student success

New students who test at pre-college English upon entering Palo Alto College can expect guidance and nurturing.

That’s what the Puente Project at Palo Alto College is offering program participants. The 30-year old academic preparation program launched last fall at the southside college with over 50 students. The program combines writing, counseling and mentoring to motivate and support underrepresented students.

Aside from academic support, students also receive encouragement from mentors from the community. Each student is paired a mentor, or business professional, who commits to helping their mentee develop character and life skills. While the Puente program is only for one academic year, the relationships the students develop with the mentors outlast the program’s term.

The program is by led by Dr. Rafael Castillo, professor of English; Diane Lerma, lead reading instructor; Dr. Yolanda Reyna, assistant professor in the counseling department; and Dr. Daniel Rodriguez, professor in the counseling department.

According to Lerma, the Puente curriclum is infused with Latino authors. “Studies indicate that Hispanic students who are introduced to Latino or multi-cultural authors are more successful in school and helps them develop their own identity,” Lerma said.

The Puente Project is open to all students, regardless of academic standing or financial status. Plans to expand the program in the Fall 2013 from 50 students to 150-200 students are in the works, Lerma said.

Puente Project History
The Puente Project evolved in 1981 at the University of California – Berkeley as an effort to support services for underserved students. Its mission is to increase the number of disadvantaged students who enroll in four-year colleges and universities, earn college degrees, and return to the community as mentors and leaders of future generations. Since then, the project has expanded to over 30 high schools in California and to several community colleges in Texas, including Palo Alto College, El Paso Community College and South Texas College.

For more information about the Puente Project, contact Diana Lerma at 486-3263.

Learn more about the Puente Project at Palo Alto College.
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Learn more about the Puente at UC-Berkeley.