Puente program helps LatinX students thrive
By Byron Patten - Staff Reporter
Highline has implemented a new program to help its LatinX students succeed.
Puente is a new cohort at Highline with the mission to help educationally disadvantaged students learn more about LatinX culture, identity and higher education options.
The goal is also to have Puente scholars return to their community as leaders and mentor for the next generation, said Joshua Magallanes, director of Puente at Highline.
"I hope that the students will be educators in their own chosen fields of study. They are perusing degrees in various pathways," Magallanes said.
The program was launched by University of California-Berkeley in 1981 and has since been implemented in many colleges, benefiting approximately 300,000 students in higher education, middle and high school levels.
Highline, however, is the first college in Washington state to offer Puente.
"The university [Berkley] designed Puente and its curriculum after researching successful classroom and cohort platforms," Magallanes said.
"It's similar to TRiO and Umoja in that we're offering a cohort-like setting with advisers, only Puente functions around the basis of LatinX curriculum specifically."
TRiO and Umoja are successful cohort programs at Highline that also offer services to aid diverse groups of students.
Members of Puente will receive writing, counseling and mentoring components within their studies.
"We've tailored Puente to our academic year, resources and faculty," Magallanes said. "Stephanie Ojeda Espinoza, my co-coordinator, is an English professor, therefore students will be enrolled in English courses around ethnic studies throughout their time in the program."
Students also have access to speaker seminars and college and career planning.
"I think a major part of Puente is the setting," Magallanes said. "We're being more relevant to the students when they have staff and instructors like themselves [LatinX identity]."
But Puente isn't only for students of LatinX background.
"Anyone can join and participate," Magallanes said, "However, the curriculum is specific to LatinX, so it may not be as relevant to some students as it is to others."
Though only in its second quarter, Magallanes already foresees Puente benefiting students at Highline.
"We're seeing amazing participation from our enrolled students and they're coming back, which is a good sign," Magallanes said. "With similar programs at Highline, we typically see increased involvement around the school and community."
For many students starting out, Puente can be the stepping stone for a successful college career, says Magallanes.
"Having a group of students that you bond with throughout the year and faculty to guide you can be a great push to get active," said Magallanes. "Your confidence can be boosted and it isn't so intimidating when you have this team with you."
The current team of Puente consists of nine students, but Magallanes foresees that number growing with the years.
"We've set a cap at 25 students. We're not there yet, but we're also just starting out," Magallanes said. "We will be recruiting through outreach in the high schools and various outreach events in the community."
Interested students can apply to Puente in the Fall of next year. The cohort runs on a yearly basis and is in the planning of extending its length to two years.