Puentes program aids Latino students

Connections formed help students achieve goals

As a resource at South, the voluntary program Puentes individually mentors Latino students, Danita Fitch, World Language Department Instructional Supervisor, said.

Created five years ago by Spanish Teachers Veronica Reyes and Gabby Mikos, Puentes works to create a safe space for Latino students, Reyes said.

“The purpose of the Puentes program is to build equity through providing social-emotional support for our Latino students to explore their full academic potential in the classroom and beyond,” Reyes said.

Teachers and counselors are able to recommend Latino students for Puentes, Reyes explained. Eligibility is extended to all Latino students, and many students are invited to the program through their Spanish for Heritage Learners class, a Spanish class for native speakers.

Members of the Puentes program are able to meet with their mentor a few times a week to receive advice in their academic and personal lives, depending on what the student needs, Fitch said.

“[Puentes] is about building relationships and helping the student in any area [of their life],” Fitch said. “[Students can meet] about academic goals, how to advocate for themselves, and social issues.”

This year, ten teachers in the World Language Department are serving as mentors, Reyes noted. Having consistent communication creates an invaluable bond between mentors and mentees, she said.

“This continuous communication creates a very personal bond and relationship,” Reyes said. “[A student’s] mentor serves as their go-to person in the building, as well as their advocate for their academic, social, and personal growth.”

While this program can be helpful, Fitch explained many overlook it, or do not even know about the program or its purpose.

“[Puentes is] a wonderful opportunity for students,” Fitch said. “It’s hard to have that one-on-one relationship that some of our students really need, and [Puentes] presents that opportunity to them.”

As a student in the program, sophomore Jael Cruz expressed his gratitude to be able to achieve his academic and social-emotional goals through Puentes.

“[In Puentes], I have a chance to talk to someone who will help me with my goals,” Cruz said. “[My mentor] helped me become not as shy and [able to] talk to people.”

Reyes expressed that the life-long skills gained from Puentes will help students for years to come.

“Working with an adult helps [students] develop skills that will transfer beyond our school walls,” Reyes said. “Students over the years have formed wonderful bonds with their mentors that have helped them continue to find success after graduating from GBS.”