Puentistas speak on their better futures

Hillary Hetrick, @hillarymhetrick

Los Medanos College’s Puente hosted the 4th Annual LMC Faculty and Staff meeting for the First-Generation Student panel on Tuesday, Sept. 17th in the Library, in L-105. The event began at 11 a.m.

Puente is a national program that has won awards and improved the success rate of thousands of California’s underrepresented students. Their goal is to increase the number of educationally disadvantaged students who enroll in community colleges and universities. Its ultimate goal is to allow these students to return to the community as leaders and mentors. The program provides writing, mentoring components and counseling.

Puente Co-Coordinator and English Instructor Stacey Miller led the event, along with 7 Faculty and Staff panelists. Puente members and one of Miller’s classes were present for the event. Miller’s students had to write an essay about it as their upcoming assignment.

Miller began with a brief introduction and continuously explained how the panel will rotate and how some faculty will have to dismiss themselves after their presentation and return to class.               

The panelists had compelling stories.

“This is so beautiful…I’m just beaming because I waited a very long time to see Puente twice as big,” said Liz Costanza, who was a big part of puente. “After High School, [after] moving so much, I wanted to be on my own. I came to Los Medanos when I was 18.”

Costanza explained that going to college was the best thing that happened to her. She thought she was just going to get a certificate, but she utilized the student services such as EOPS and Financial Aid.

“I had an amazing relationship with my EOPS counselor, who said to me, ‘No, you’re going to get more than just a certificate– you’re going to be an educated young lady,’ said Costanza. “The club that you all have, I started that club. I’m the founding mother of the Puente Club.”

Costanza got her first job at Los Medanos College in Admissions and Records as a Student Worker. Costanza graduated with three degrees and transferred to St. Mary’s College. She had an ambition to be a counselor just like the EOPS counselor who helped her at Los Medanos College. She enrolled at San Francisco State, graduated and interned at Merritt College. She returned to Los Medanos College as an EOPS Intern and worked at other colleges as well. She became Puente Counselor first before stepping out to start a family. When she returned, she took on several jobs, finally settling as an EOPS counselor.

Anthony Scoggins told his story, “I’m a 2nd generation Mexican-American. I grew up in south Sacramento.” Scoggins attended San Francisco State and got his degree in Comparative Literature. “I studied a lot of languages — Spanish, English, French.”

The program and group created a family for students who participate and qualify for it.

“I just didn’t realize how big this group is. I’m proud to be here [and] glad to meet you guys,” said Scoggins.

It also caused inspiration to those in the group who saw role models in people mandating and leading the events and group.

“I would never see a lot of women of color in higher positions, so I didn’t understand that Latina women can be intelligent,” said Elizabeth Ramirez.

She went to college and joined Puente, even after all the hardships she had ever faced.

“I’m a Puentista, always be a Puentista,” said Ramirez.

At one of the campuses she attended, she  created the Puente club and became president of Puente. She was then a student ambassador and transferred to UC Davis as a Sociology major with an emphasis in Social Services. She got her Master’s degree at San Jose State in School Counseling, all because of Puente.

“No matter what your background is, or your history, it does not define who you’re going to be in the future,” said Ramirez.

Puente is the oldest learning community at Los Medanos College. The Puente staff attend training  each year to provide a program instruction, mentoring and academic counseling. Puente is open each year to anyone who is interested.