PUENTE Learning Center – Delivering Quality Education for Lifelong Achievement

By Giving List Staff   |   November 17, 2023

During her undergraduate studies at UC Davis, Nelly Escalante wrestled with what many first-generation college students encounter: imposter syndrome.

Often one of the only Latina students in her class, Escalante found herself grappling with feelings of inadequacy and a sense of not truly belonging. Until she found the support and confidence she needed at PUENTE Learning Center. 

Since she was a freshman in high school, Escalante, now 22, has participated in PUENTE’s College and Career Program, which equips low-income youth of color with the tools and support they need to be successful in college and obtain a competitive degree. The program, which makes a 10-year commitment to all participating students, includes college readiness classes, leadership training, scholarships, case management, and mentorship.  

“With PUENTE, I always felt I had a community I could reach out to who would understand where I was coming from,” Escalante says.

Since 1985, PUENTE Learning Center has been a community hub located in the heart of Boyle Heights, a largely immigrant community east of downtown Los Angeles. Each year, 2,000 children, teenagers, and adults come to PUENTE to receive training to set them up for success in their educational and career pathways. 

During the last four years, PUENTE has grown its College and Career Program by 161%  Ninety-seven percent of high school seniors who took part in the program enrolled in college. 

“It’s not enough just to make sure young people get out of high school, because it’s that post-secondary degree – associate, bachelor’s, master’s or PhD –  that will dramatically amplify their choices and enhance their lifetime earnings,” Jerome Greening, PUENTE’s CEO, says.

PUENTE, Spanish for bridge, grabs the opportunities that may seem out of reach and makes them possible. In addition to its college program, PUENTE also offers its community a preschool, an elementary school, career guidance and preparation, and adult education and workforce development classes. 

Escalante, the daughter of immigrant parents from Mexico and El Salvador who was raised in Boyle Heights, graduated in June with a Bachelor of Science in Molecular and Medical Microbiology. In the fall, she will begin her pursuit of a PhD in Immunity, Microbes, and Molecular Pathogenesis at UCLA. Before attending UC Davis, Escalante never even considered going to graduate school. But with PUENTE’s mentorship, support, and guidance, she now hopes to perform research for a government agency where she can investigate emerging pathogens and make a positive impact in the world. 

“During college, PUENTE was like a little piece of home that would keep me motivated every time we met. It has given me hope that no matter where I go, I will have a community of people that truly care for my success and well-being,” Escalante says.


PUENTE Learning Center

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(323) 780-5312
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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My family and I have supported PUENTE Learning Center for many years because we firmly believe in the power of education to improve lives. Everyone should have the tools to succeed, no matter their zip code, income, or ethnic background. It is so impressive that PUENTE has created such a welcoming environment for the Boyle Heights community to access vital resources. Now more than ever, nonprofits must nurture the trust and confidence of their clients, and PUENTE continues to do just that. PUENTE Learning Center is helping to create a better and stronger Los Angeles, and I am so grateful for their high-impact work.
Rich Webster
Co-President and Treasurer of
the Helen and Will Webster Foundation

Put a Young Person on a Path to College With a Gift of $3,000

PUENTE Learning Center’s College and Career Program has an astounding success rate, with 97% of high school seniors in the program enrolling in college. 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 $3,000 scholarships for books, food, access to paid internships, case management, and counselors. The total amount of money needed is $450,000 to fund the program through 2024.

Key Supporters

Richard Riordan
and Elizabeth Gregory Riordan
Helen and Will Webster Foundation
Rose Hills Foundation
Citi Foundation – Community
Progress Maker Award
Ralph M. Parsons Foundation
Robert Tuttle
and Maria Hummer-Tuttle
Thomas and Dorothy
Leavey Foundation
California Community
Carl and Roberta
Deutsch Foundation
Snell & Wilmer
Citizens Business Bank
Nike – Community Impact Fund
USC – Good Neighbors Program
Leticia Acosta
Asolva Inc.
LA84 Foundation
Los Angeles Lakers Youth Fund