Stress, being overwhelmed and unsure of what major to choose. For some, college can be a trying time for students figuring out which road they want their future to go down. Before Ruby Elias joined the Puente program at LPC, these were the feelings that haunted her.
Like many colleges, LPC offers a program called Puente for educationally disadvantaged students. Puente targets Latino students but is open to anyone with a deprived background in education.
This program was deemed as “A National Model for Student Success” because of its work preparing students to earn their degree, transfer to a four-year college, and gain the confidence to become community leaders and mentors.
These students are considered educationally disadvantaged because they may not have the same “access” in education as others. This includes the lack of well-funded schooling and may be comprised of students who are the first in their family to graduate.
According to Michelle Gonzalez, a professor at LPC, schools are funded by taxes, so a community that has fewer tax dollars has a higher chance of having deprived schools. There is deprivation in technology and teachers who aren’t fully finished with their credentials, so they complete an “emergency credential” in order to teach.
Students receive a set counselor, Kent Gomez, for the year they are a part of Puente, and they gain a mentor from the community. The literature they read is multicultural.
“This is my first year at Las Positas. I joined the Puente Program because I heard great things about the program. This is my first year with Puente, and it has helped me in many ways and has showed me that I am capable to create a future for myself. Whenever I have a question or whenever I need advice, I can always count on my Puente instructor,” said Giovanna Seabra.
Gomez is in his first semester working as a counselor at LPC. Half of his workload, 12.5 hours, is dedicated to Puente students. His weekly tasks for Puente consists of career counseling and figuring out an educational plan for students. He informs students on what classes to take during their time at LPC in order to be prepared to transfer. The remainder of the hours goes into planning activities for Puente.
Gomez is also in charge of the College Success Class, which helps students with time management goals, low-income students, and first generation college students.
For students who are in need of educational support, ones who are undocumented, and new to the college environment, Gomez is the counselor to talk to.
“I have always had a Social Justice view on things. Sometimes students that have barriers need to be overcome. I’m a first generation college graduate in my family, immigrated at age fifteen and took six years to get my degree. I’m relatable,” said Gomez.
In the fall, English 1A- Critical Reading And Composition is offered and in the spring, English 4- Critical Thinking and Writing about Literature is offered. Professor Michelle Gonzalez teaches both of these classes. Gonzalez provides multicultural teachings such as Latino, Filipino, Afghani, American Indian, European, and African American literature to help students’ skills with reasoning.
This semester in English 1A, Gonzalez is teaching “Enrique’s Journey” by Sonia Nazario, “Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nahisi Coates and “Latino USA: A Cartoon History” by IIan Stavans and Lalo Alcaraz.
“As a Chicana I am never really able to relate to most literature that is read in a conventional classroom, but in Puente we read books like Between the World and Me and Enrique’s Journey, which are about topics like minorities and immigration. Puente has changed my education experience by feeling prepared. Going into college I had no clue who I could go to when I needed help, but Puente has made it easy to reach out to whomever I need to succeed. Additionally it has made my experience fun. It has introduced me to a lot of new people that I can hang out with and study with, because we are in the same classes,” said Elias.
Students even get advantages that go as far as having a mentor separate from a counselor. This community mentor builds a strong one-on-one relationship with their student by meetings, communication such as texts, or phone calls and taking them to their place of work.
The advantage of being able to join his/her community mentor at work will help immensely for their future.
“By tagging along with their mentors, students will obtain experience for their major, their future job, and acquire a strong relationship with their mentor,” said Gonzalez.
Gomez wants Puente students to know “Once a Puentista, always a Puentista”.