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 k / o
                                       politics + culture

Monday, August 29, 2005


Puente, which means 'bridge' in Spanish, is the name of an innovative, successful, and award winning California program directed at getting kids from under-represented communities into college and making sure they succeed there by using mentoring, parental involvement, targeted skill-building and counseling that follows them from early high school into their college years.

Puente serves as a powerful counter-example, a progressive model, that actually does what 'No Child Left Behind' was meant to do. It's a program that succeeds because it uses an approach rooted in progressive values: it empowers young citizens and gives them tools and skills they need rather than simply using testing as a hurdle to that success, what I would call the "failure model" of the GOP. Puente takes kids where they are at, in community, and provides mentoring and teacher support that walks along side them and engages them every step of the way to become successful citizens.

Puente students in California do well on the statewide A-G requirements we ask of our high school students. They are also better prepared for post-secondary education because they've spent their entire teen years honing the skills they'll need to succeed. Further, these young men and women stay in school and stick with the program because they've visualized the goal of attending college and received pragmatic and personal support for that vision. As a graduate of an urban public high school, let me say, both aspects are essential, the practical skill-building and the community support of one's ideals.

If you can't imagine yourself succeeding, you most likely won't. Where the GOP uses fear of failure as motivation, Puente helps students visualize success and hone in on the practical skills that get them there.

What's perverse, however, is that the GOP push for federal and state-wide testing, including efforts by Governor Schwarzenegger here in California, is being used as a rationale to try to jusitfy cutting the budgets of programs like Puente. That's something to think about and to organize around.

Simply put, we progressives need to stand up for our innovators and for the ways in which pragmatic implementation of our values yields success. We need to stand up for our teachers and our kids.

Of course, our best argument for programs like Puente, is the success of the kids themselves: young citizens to whom the future of the country belongs.


  • Excellent piece KO.

    Progressives need to rediscover a vocabulary where extravagant waste in one area (ie Bush's 200B for the Iraq war) is understood in the real human terms that ultimately matter. In the 80s, it was typical to translate the cost of a B2 Bomber or an MX missile into the cost of funding schools, giving kids scholarships, etc. It's a really powerful way to make two points at once. I don't know why this seems to have gone out of fashion, but IMO it has.

    Details. "At Tennyson, the Puente program receives about $5,600 from the state each year. That money pays for part of a counselor's salary, tours of college campuses, an independent reading library, the printing of an anthology of student writings, and a modest end-of-the-year celebration for graduating seniors."

    Or an even more specific detail: "Students, for instance, tolerated smelly eggs in one project because Mr. Walter had bought expired ones that were less expensive."

    Fuck that.

    And just now news of massive cuts, at the federal level, to student loans.

    Finally see this teling find about hurricane preparedness by ColdFusion04, which makes a similar point in a different way.

    By Blogger awol, at 8:59 AM  

  • Thanks, and thanks for the links.

    I should have said that information for this piece came from a teacher friend of mine from Hayward....home of Tennyson High.

    You'll be reading more about Hayward CA here on k/o.

    By Blogger kid oakland, at 5:49 PM  

  • Hey K/O, just wanted to let you know there is a similar organization is Boston known as Posse Foundation.


    By Blogger Dean, at 8:53 AM  

  • That's cool....

    maybe Posse and Puente can hook up!!

    (bet you money they already are...and not just at top colleges, but in law schools, med schools and business schools across the land.)

    Thanks for that link. I appreciate it, and didn't know about Posse.

    By Blogger kid oakland, at 9:48 AM  

  • Awesome Piece! NCLB needs programs like Puente. It's really an excellent role model for the country.

    Also: just FYI, we're launching a new blog: Calitics:SoapBlox California. It's a community blog geared specifically to California. It uses the SoapBlox platform that's used at MyLeftWing. I'd love it if you could stop by and post when you get a chance. Thanks!

    By Blogger SFBrianCL, at 6:20 PM  

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