Preparing for a brighter future
Puente offers classes and programs that open doors to jobs, continuing education, and self-sufficiency. Our Learning Center has two classrooms and plenty of computers, with the South Coast’s only free, public, high-speed Internet access. Dozens of men and women attend classes on English, Spanish, citizenship, and literacy, and tutoring is offered in all sorts of subjects. The innovative long-distance learning program, Plaza Communitaria, offers primary and secondary school education in Spanish, and gives local residents from Mexico an opportunity to earn their school certificates from the Mexican government.
Support towards graduation can extend to identifying youth who can benefit from the California’s PASS (Portable Assisted Study Sequence) program and underwriting its cost, and tutoring in math, science, English, and PSAT and GED preparation. Puente empowers middle school and high school students as tutors to their peers and adults as well as to younger children. Youth taught the recent basic computer skills class for adults.
Summer and after-school programs include field trips to colleges and universities as well as trips to cultural institutions throughout the region. Puente presents Youth Bridges Scholarships each year to graduating high school seniors who have worked at Puente in the course of their high school years.
The children’s area at Puente has educational toys, Young Explorer computers, and plenty of space inside and out for play and exploration. More than 60 children take advantage of this space while their parents attend classes at Puente. Puente partners with the San Mateo County Library on a weekly Homework Club and a weekly Story Time for small children.
Health education empowers community members to take care of themselves. Puente’s Spanish-language nutrition programs cover healthy Mexican cooking; participants have been motivated to receive membership in local CSA programs, or exercise shoes. Exercise classes for adults and children are very popular, particularly the Zumba dance exercise class; more than a dozen participants have trained as “promoters of physical activity” and as co-instructors of the class.
La Sala, Puente’s bi-weekly meal and gathering place for area nursery and fieldworkers, provides a casual setting for cooking lessons and conversations about work skills that might open doors to the men hoping for work in kitchens or gardens.
Puente has become the largest youth employer on the South Coast, hiring as much as a third of the students at Pescadero High School in both paid positions and internships to support its summer programs. Job orientation includes first aid and CPR certification, challenges such as ropes courses, and life skills such as budgeting, parenting, resume preparation, and work behavior training. Puente’s youth employment programs include counseling around mental and physical health needs, graduation requirements, and career and vocational educational opportunities. Youth staff can shadow adults in jobs that might be of possible career interest, and each youth is provided with an adult mentor. Leadership development comes in extensive training on team building and group and individual decision making. As well as being tutors and mentors to younger people, Youth develop alcohol and drug prevention programs for their peers.
Many youth continue to work at Puente after school throughout the rest of the year and take advantage of ongoing training opportunities. For example, the La Honda Fire Brigade has provided Puente youth staff with CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) training, enabling them to take an active part in the quick response to the March 2011 tsunami warning in Pescadero.
Project SUCCESS, an ambitious program partnering with San Mateo County to prevent and reduce substance abuse among the region’s young people, incorporates evaluation, education, peer training, referrals, parent workshops and wrap-around services, training of youth leaders to participate in local and regional events promoting healthy lifestyles, and the building of prevention capacity and infrastructure at the school and community levels.