El Puente/Summer Bridge 2013
Students in Northern’s summer bridge program, “El Puente,” have found that it takes a community to build a bridge. Working alongside dedicated instructors, tutors, mentors and peers, individuals from all walks of life are creating their foundation for college success.
El Puente, meaning “the bridge,” is an intensive eight-week summer program designed to help students transition into college life academically, mentally, and socially. Through tailored math and English cohorts, hands-on learning projects, shared study experiences and guidance at every step of the way, El Puente provides a powerful head-start.
Now in its third year, the program serves 61 students poised to attend either Northern or other institutions this Fall. Funded by a Title V grant for the improvement of Hispanic-serving institutions, El Puente is able to provide instructions, learning opportunities and even materials to participants.
“Summer Bridge really helped me get ready for college,” Denisa Nastacio said. Now serving as a student ambassador in the program, Nastacio attended El Puente last summer and is in her third semester at Northern.
NEW LEARNING EXPERIENCES
This year’s program features a few new experiences designed to enhance student development. This year, El Puente is using a shared curriculum based on the acequias of northern New Mexico that will integrate cultural understanding with the development of practical skills.
“We are creating a different kind of learning opportunity here” ÉXITO Director Patricia Trujillo said. “We want to foster a cultural sense of learning.”
Another addition is the reading of a shared novel, House Made of Dawn by Pulitzer Prize winning author N. Scott Momaday. The novel features a Native American protagonist from New Mexico and centers around the themes of culture and education.
Students are also participating in a communal gardening project providing them with opportunities to connect with peers and instructors. The project integrates “the metaphor of sustainability in education, nature, community, culture and life,” Trujillo said.
Weekly seminars, counseling and advisement, a field trip to the Museum of New Mexico in Santa Fe, and the collaboration on a final project complete El Puente’s offerings to students.
“The program really helps students take ownership of the campus and its resources,” Nastacio said.
Nastacio’s favorite summer bridge memory is writing a profile essay in which students get to interview subjects of their choice and learn about family, culture and community in the process.
“I’m excited for these students because they’re going to get to do the profile essay” she said. “They are going to learn a lot of meaningful things from it.”
Nastacio says she still keeps in contact with 10 of her summer bridge peers with whom she maintains a support group.
When asked what she would tell future summer bridge-ers, she said “I challenge you to come.” “You will walk away not only with academic support but with a community of friendship and trust.”
Story and photos by Stephanie J. Montoya