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Puente Project paves path to success

Photo+credit%3A+Ryan+Guitare
Photo credit: Ryan Guitare

Photo credit: Ryan Guitare

Photo credit: Ryan Guitare

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Freshman year of college is intimidating for most students and Pedro Corrales was one of those students.

Fortunately, Corrales, 18, psychology major, came across the Puente Project that aided him in first-year of college towards academic success.

The program was designed to help educationally disadvantaged students and provides services to aid students to transferring to a four-year university, earn a degree, and become mentors in their communities.

El Camino’s Puente program is celebrating 31 years on campus.

Although, the program is predominantly Latino, the program is open to all students.

Latino success in colleges has been progressing over the years but the lack of underrepresentation is still affecting their progress in higher education.

The Puente Project has proven it’s success in transfers and keeping students enrolled in college.

According to EC’s Department of Institutional Research, Puente students persistence rates is at 81 percent compared to regular EC students at a 72 percent.

Persistence refers to student enrollment over two or more terms in the academic year.

From 2000 to 2009, 176 Puente students transferred, 22 percent to UC, 56 percent to a CSU, and 21 percent to a private institution or out-of-state according to the Puente Newsletter.

Puente students had a transfer rate of 46 percent of students who attended in 2002 to 2003 and transferred in 2007 to 2008 compared to 26 percent of regular EC students.

Los Angeles Harbor College Puente program had 17.7 percent of their students out of a cohort of 118 students transfer to a university.

Los Angeles Trade Tech Puente program from 2011-2012 had a steady transfer rate of 40 percent transfer to a CSU or UC.

Juan Guerra, part-time Puente counselor and career counselor at EC, talks about the reason for Puente’s success.

“The reason I believe that the Puente Project has been so successful is because it has what Latinos like, a collectivism approach,” Guerra said.

Guerra adds that everything is done as group, what they call “familia.”

“We have love, understanding, respect and empathy. Qualities (that) are integrated in us,” he said.

Griselda Castro, who has been at EC for 20 years, Counselor and Puente Instructor, adds that the success of the program is from the counselor’s open door policy and the students having the same instructor and counselor for the time being in the program.

Each Puente student is given a local mentor to help them throughout their semester.

Erica Brenes, 3 years at EC, Puente instructor and coordinator, discusses about mentors and their benefits for puentistas.

“The local mentor they are paired with helps provide motivation

and prepares them for their ultimate transfer,” Brenes said. “The point is to make sure our students know they are fully supported and that many people are rooting for their success– this can go so far with students.”

Puente students are required to take courses provided by the program that not only teaches them basic skills but also skills they can apply in life.

Justin Zuniga, 18, film major talks about the benefits from the courses offered from Puente.

“The (professors) understand what your weaknesses and strengths,” Zuniga said.

Students are grouped in a cohort, which means they will be grouped with the same students for a full year in the same courses.

“By placing the students in an English cohort that spans a year, it helps develop interdependent study skills and it helps them to have the same, consistent instruction,” Brenes said.

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Puente Project paves path to success