Under-represented students

Founded in 1981 at Chabot Community College in Hayward, California, the Puente program expanded to include 33 high schools throughout California in 1992. Puente (the Spanish word for ”bridge”) has improved the college-going and college-retention rate of tens of thousands of California’s educationally underrepresented students. Compared with white students, Latinos are four times more likely to drop out of high school.

Puente provides accelerated reading and writing instruction, intensive counseling, and mentoring for students. Puente is an “asset based” program, in that it views underrepresented students’ home culture as an asset rather than as a detraction, and so teachers are encouraged to incorporate concepts such as familia (family) and cariño (caring) into the classroom, and culture-based writing and Latino literature into the curriculum. Furthermore, the program consciously builds a community of puentistas. Students who participate in the program are supported throughout college and encouraged to come back and mentor incoming freshman students into the program.

The results are impressive. On average, only 55 percent of Latinos and 66 percent of Latinas graduate high school in California, yet Magnolia High School’s college-going rate has reached 83 percent. The first Harvard acceptance in Magnolia’s 44-year history came out of Puente, and thanks to the program the number of UC eligible graduates rose over thirty percent in five years. And Magnolia is not the exception; the results are similarly promising in the other thirty two schools Puente works with throughout California. Of graduating high school students statewide, Puente graduates are thirty percent more likely to enter college