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Hispanic Heritage Month Celebrated Through Puente Program

Grossmont College Professor and artist Veracruz Sanchez stands in front of the mural she helped create in Chicano Park. It honors Hispanic women. September 16, 2021 Source M.G. Perez
Grossmont College Professor and artist Veracruz Sanchez stands in front of the mural she helped create in Chicano Park. It honors Hispanic women. September 16, 2021 Source M.G. Perez

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.

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Hispanic Heritage Month Celebrated Through Puente Program
Listen to this story by M.G. Perez.

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.”

22 year old Mia Elias works at home on assignments for her master's program through Cal State San Marcos. She's a graduate of the Puente program at Grossmont College. September 16, 2021 Source: M.G. Perez
22 year old Mia Elias works at home on assignments for her master's program through Cal State San Marcos. She's a graduate of the Puente program at Grossmont College. September 16, 2021 Source: M.G. Perez

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.”

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