The Puente Project is a national award-winning program that has improved the college-going rate of tens of thousands of California's educationally underrepresented students since 1981.
Its mission is to increase the number of educationally underrepresented students who enroll in four-year colleges and universities, earn college degrees and return to the community as mentors and leaders to future generations. The program is interdisciplinary in approach, with writing, counseling and mentoring components.
Started in 1981 at Chabot Community College in Hayward, California, the program has since expanded to 6 middle schools, 38 high schools and 65 community colleges throughout the state. Puente staff train middle school, high school and community college instructors and counselors to implement a program of rigorous instruction, focused academic counseling, and mentoring by members of the community. Puente's staff training programs have benefited approximately 300,000 students across the state. Puente is open to all students.
The Puente Project is an inter-segmental program that is co-sponsored by the University of California and the California Community College Chancellor's Office. The Program is headquartered at UC Berkeley where Puente leadership staff work closely with the site team partners (an English instructor and counselor at each school/campus site) to implement the program at middle schools, high schools and community colleges across the state of California, Texas, and newly in Seattle, Washington.
Puente was founded in 1981 by Felix Galaviz and Patricia McGrath at Chabot College in Hayward. The program was launched as a grassroots initiative to address the low rate of academic achievement among Mexican American and Latino students. In an effort to understand the possible causes of their high dropout rate, Galaviz and McGrath reviewed over 2,000 student transcripts. They discovered three key patterns among Latino students: students were avoiding academic counseling, students were not enrolling in college-level writing courses, and students were the first in their families to attend college. The Puente model that emerged in response to these patterns comprises three components: rigorous language arts instruction, sustained academic counseling, and community leadership development and mentoring.