PUENTE Learning Center Helping to Make the American Dream Possible
For Nicole, PUENTE Learning Center’s free college program was a lifeline during the pandemic. A first-generation college student who was raised in a single-parent household, Nicole joined PUENTE’s college program as a senior in high school and with its help went on to attend East Los Angeles College. Then the pandemic broke out and everything changed. School went virtual and Nicole needed to care for her ailing grandmother. She was so overwhelmed she nearly dropped out of school.
But her PUENTE case manager stepped in and connected Nicole to campus resources and persuaded her to stay in school. That support, knowing someone was in her corner, was just what Nicole needed.
PUENTE Learning Center, located in the heart of Boyle Heights, a largely immigrant community in East Los Angeles, has been a community hub for 37 years, providing educational and career pathways for the predominantly Latino residents as they strive to live the American dream.
“The immigrant story is the story of this nation and there is no timeline for when that story should end,” Jerome Greening, PUENTE’s CEO, says.
PUENTE, Spanish for bridge, grabs the opportunities that may seem out of reach and makes them possible through various programs that, in addition to their college program, include a preschool, an elementary school, career guidance and preparation, and adult education and workforce development classes.
Each year, 2,000 children, teenagers, and adults come to PUENTE’s 45,000-square-foot community center. A critical piece of the learning curriculum for children – a third of whom speak Spanish as a primary language – is to help them achieve a solid foundation in English, which will prepare them to be more successful for middle school, high school, and then college, Greening says.
The pandemic, Greening adds, has exacerbated the educational and economic divide for many students of color and from lower-income households. Without help, impacted students like Nicole are more likely to postpone or abandon their higher education dreams and goals.
“Because of PUENTE, I stuck with the school. Without PUENTE, who knows, maybe I would have dropped out,” Nicole says. “Now, I feel much more confident in pursuing my education, because I have people backing me up.”
Vice President of Advancement: Matt Wells
We are PUENTE: People United to Enrich the Neighborhood Through Education. Building bridges to learning and opportunity in Boyle Heights and beyond.
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When I was 16 years old I got pregnant and dropped out of high school. I always dreamed of going back to school one day to earn my diploma, and PUENTE gave me that opportunity.
$2,500 is Enough to Put a Young Person on a Path to College
PUENTE’s college readiness program has an astounding success rate, with 100% of high schoolers graduating and 90% going on to pursue higher education. From there, PUENTE follows the students through post-secondary school, helping them leverage their talents for the workforce.
In order to maintain its efforts in preparing young people on their path to college or the workforce, PUENTE is asking for individual donations to cover program costs including $2,500 scholarships for books, food, access to paid internships, case management, and counselors. The total amount of money needed is $500,000 to fund the program through 2023.
– Community Progress Maker Award
Helen and Wil Webster Foundation
California Community Foundation
Richard and Elizabeth Riordan
Ralph M. Parsons Foundation
Thomas and Dorothy Leavey Foundation
Carl and Roberta Deutsch Foundation
– HALO Award
Snell & Wilmer
Nike Community Impact Fund
Eugenia Riordan Mule
– Good Neighbors Program
Los Angeles Lakers