El Puente — Summer Bridge
A special evening...
The evening began with song. Anna X. Gutierrez-Sisneros led the room, playing an acoustic guitar and singing traditional Mexican songs, joined by a chorus of 4 students.
This was followed by remarks from President Barceló, who spoke of being the first in her family to attend college. Adjusting to life away from home was difficult for her, especially when she went to Iowa for graduate school. But, she said, she found her “family” away from home when she connected with other “Mexicanas,” and she urged the students gathered on Northern’s Española campus to recognize and maintain their identities as they made their way through college. “Back then I never thought I would someday be a president. But if I can do it, you can do it. I am sure that there is a president or two sitting right here in this room.”
Summer Bridge is about "What's Next..."
El Puente Program Director Terry Mulert began the formal event talking about the students’ accomplishments in the Summer Bridge Program, but reminded everyone that “Summer Bridge is not about Summer Bridge, but about what’s next: getting a degree from NNMC!” He followed this pronouncement with some data from the second year of the program.
Ninety percent of students who started El Puente actually “crossed the bridge” and finished the program. Of those, one hundred per cent will enter college as Northern students in the fall. The students in the writing cohort did very well. Ninety percent of those students will be a semester ahead when they enter college in the fall, so they will only need one semester of developmental writing classes. Sixty percent are prepared to take college composition when they enter Northern as freshmen with a significant number of students advancing a whole year.
According to Mulert, El Puente students, faculty, and staff “packed a lot into the eight week session, including computer training scholarship writing workshop, a poetry reading, gardening and harvesting, and even a lecture about local lizards.” Destinee Martinez entered the program close to the end of her pregnancy and took two weeks off to have the baby. She came back and finished, and was present with her tiny student in her arms.
Down the Winding Roads We Go
The writing cohort faculty, Deborah Begel, Kelly Dolejsi, and Myrriah Gomez, unveiled the second annual El Puente chapbook of student and faculty writings by presenting student readings by. Denisa Nastacio read about her father, whom she called Dat’ chu in the Zuni language. She quoted him telling her, “Whatever you do, put 100% into it with an open heart and no ulterior motives.”
Maria Olivas read her essay about her mother, and her eyes got teary as she spoke about her mother’s journey from Chihuaha as “the oldest of 13 children who never got to keep any of the money she made cleaning houses.” Olivas continued,My mother married my father at the age of 18, and I am the first daughter to go to college, and I have inspired my brother to go to college too.”
Students also read from their essays about cooking. Vanessa Vigil’s essay described the process of making enchiladas, which “takes all day and that is why they taste so good.” Jason Lewis nearly gave away his family’s pizza recipe but stopped short of that, simply saying “my grandmother always said, ‘a happy stomach is a happy heart.’” And he advised his younger brother, who was in the audience, to “learn how to cook because everyone loves you if you can cook and it helps you meet girls.”
The chapbook titled "Down the Winding Roads We Go," was edited by the El Puente writing faculty and presented to the students as a gift along with their certificates of completion and flash drives decorated with the El Puente logo.
Crossing the Bridge to the First Year Experience
After the student readings, the audience was treated to an 11-minute slide show. Set to music, the presentation showed photos of students in the classroom, tending to their El Puente garden, spending time on a field trip, and socializing on campus.
The event was attended by 100 students and guests that included family and friends, dignitaries, as well as Northern faculty and staff. All went upstairs to the commons area of the Montoya Building to enjoy a dinner catered by local eatery El Paragua. For dessert they enjoyed a cake baked by the students, who decorated it with an image of a bridge. At the end of the evening, students walked away with their gifts and certificates, proud family members, full stomachs, but mostly with a sense of accomplishment that comes from learning as a community and from being fostered and supported throughout by faculty, staff, and administrators who really care.
Now that they have accomplished this eight week program—crossing “el Puente”—where do they go from here? Students will enter the First Year Experience Program (also directed by Mulert) as college freshmen. They will join Learning Communities and be in a position to help other members of the incoming freshman class navigate their first year at Northern.