Hispanic Heritage Month Celebrated Through Puente Program
National Hispanic Heritage Month is underway, with an awareness of a rich culture thriving in San Diego County, and just across the border where Mexicans on Thursday celebrated their independence from Spain.
Amid the celebrations, Grossmont College is promoting a program to support Latino students. The program is called Puente, the Spanish word for “bridge”. Puente students are often the first in their family to go to college. They receive one-on-one counseling, mentoring, and classes in English proficiency.
Veracruz Sanchez is a Puente professor who graduated from the program more than 20 years ago.
“We need to tell our students that, yes, they can go to school, yes, they can go to college and, yes, they can more importantly graduate," she said. "I don’t think being a Latino is a disadvantage. It’s the thing that makes us strong.”
Mia Elias of El Cajon, age 22, is a more recent Puente graduate. After Grossmont College, she went on to graduate last June from UC San Diego with a bachelor’s degree in sociology. Now she is working on her master’s degree through Cal State San Marcos. She said she could not have come this far without her counselor who shares her heritage.
“Counselors like that believe in you and want you to succeed,” Mia said, “I feel like I was 100% supported. They are like a family with that program.”
Standing under the Coronado Bridge in Chicano Park Thursday, Professor Sanchez reflected on one of the murals she helped create. It is a mural celebrating Hispanic women, perfectly placed on a pillar supporting the “puente.”
Sanchez said, “Our program is the bridge for Latino students to the community, the college, and their academic goals.”