A Brief History of the Puente Project
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 this 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
- students were the first in their families to attend college
The Puente model that McGrath and Galaviz designed to address these three problems comprised three components:
rigorous language arts instruction, sustained academic counseling, and mentoring by members of the professional community. After an initial pilot of the program proved highly successful, the program was replicated in three additional community colleges. To date, the community college program has expanded to 59 sites throughout the state.
Based on its success with community college students, Puente received private funding to pilot its model in selected high schools in 1993. This pilot also proved highly successful, and the program has since been replicated in 33 California high schools.
In 1998, Puente was one of ten programs selected from a national pool of over 1,400 to win the prestigious Innovations in American Government Award, a program of the Ford Foundation, the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, and the Council for Excellence in Government.
In 2004, Puente was chosen as one of six model programs nationwide to help guide policymakers to improve college access and success by the Pathways to College Network, a national consortium of educational institutions, foundations, and non-profit organizations. Chosen for its successful track record in “embracing the social, cultural and learning-style differences in developing learning environments and activities for underserved students,” Puente was chosen from among over 100 organizations studied by the Pathways Network for its report, A Shared Agenda: A Leadership Challenge to Improve College
Access and Success, released February 2004.
Puente has been studied by numerous academic researchers, and was the focus of the entire September 2002 issue of the Journal Educational Policy.