Puente was founded in 1981 by Felix Galaviz and Patricia McGrath at Chabot Community College in Hayward, California.
As Assistant Dean of Chabot College Felix Galaviz began research on the performance and persistence rate among students of color on campus, specifically Latinos. He collected data from 20,000 transcripts of these students in 1979. To his dismay the data collected exposed a disheartening performance and persistence rate among his study population. With 55% of Latino students dropping out in the first three weeks of the first quarter and another 20% dropping out at the end of the same quarter, Señor Galaviz was compelled to create a model program to address this crisis.
Upon further investigation, the data pointed to three major factors that contributed to the high drop out rate among Latino students at Chabot:
- The first was the avoidance of meeting with a college counselor.
- Second, students would avoid completing the English courses.
- And third, 98% of the Latino students were the first in their family to attend college.
Galaviz teamed with Patricia McGrath, former English professor at Chabot College, to develop a program that would specifically address these three academic factors.
The program is built around Counselor-English instructor teams who retain Puente students in a full year of English and Study/Life Skills courses. Additionally, local professionals from the community volunteer their time to mentor Puente students, meeting with them throughout the year in planned and unplanned activities. This three-way support system can be visualized as three spheres of influence that meet in the middle for the student.
Puente students also get opportunities to see themselves in institutions of higher learning through twice yearly field trips and presentations. At COS, the Puente Club is one of the most active, sponsoring cultural activities such as the 16th of September Celebration, Cinco de Mayo and a Noche de Artistas, as well as community support through an annual coat drive for needy children and scholarships for continuing and transferring Puente students. The Puente community is vibrant and active.
Puente is sponsored by the UC Office of the President and the Community College Chancellor's Office as well as private donations, grants and awards. 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. Puente also won the Hispanic Image award for 2008, has been studied by numerous academic researchers and was the focus of the full September 2002 issue of the journal Educational Policy. For more information, visit the statewide Puente website.