How to Help Latinos Enroll, Graduate from College


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Did you know: In King County, Washington (9.28% Latino population), only 1 in 4 of all Latino high-school graduates go on to earn a college degree?

This is in stark contrast to the region’s 1 in 2 Asian and white students who earn a degree.

In an effort to help Latinos both enroll in and succeed in college once they get there, Highline College has created the innovative Puente program.

As part of this initiative, just 25 students – most are first-generation Latino students who are the first members of their families to attend college – are “banded” together for the course of their studies.

Culturally focused learning community

Education determines a lot about a person’s life. Education factors into their health, where they live, their access to resources, and their financial well-being.

The goal of the Puente program is to narrow the gap between Latino students and their peers when it comes to academic success.

“I did well in high school, yet when I went to college, I felt like I did not belong. I felt like an imposter,” said Ojeda Espinoza, an instructor at Highline, in an interview with the Auburn Reporter. “With Puente, students from similar backgrounds motivate and support one another. And the program provides training to us as instructors for helping students cope with those feelings.”

The ultimate goal of the program is to help students transfer to a four-year institution and complete their bachelor’s degree. However, getting students to enroll and at least earn a two-year degree will be also be critically important to the program’s success.

What is Puente?

The Puente program began in 1981 as an initiative of the Department of Education. Highline College is the first in the state of Washington to adopt it.

As part of the program, students enroll in two courses each semester that are part of this 25-person “cohort.” One is an English course that focuses on Latino and other multicultural literature and the second is a personal development course. There are also scheduled workshops and social activities.

“This group of students will benefit from the unique strategies we can provide,” said Espinoza. “The needs of some groups of students are really different. One size does not fit all in education.”

By The Numbers By The Numbers



of Latino parents support public funding for afterschool programs

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