THE FIFTH RECOMMENDATION IN ACTE'S POSTSECONDARY REFORM POSITION PAPER IS TO ENHANCE student advising and academic and life supports. The availability of effective student supports can play a critical role in student enrollment, persistence and completion of postsecondary credentials. Guidance and advising is vital to help students select programs that match well with their interests and skills. Additionally, helping them address life challenges that they may face outside the classroom can play a tremendous role in whether students succeed in postsecondary education or not.
Innovative solutions are needed from states and postsecondary institutions that will provide students with career, academic and financial aid guidance, as well as strengthen funding for student services and career counseling. Students in secondary and postsecondary education should have access to the information they need to make thoughtful decisions about choosing their career path, setting career and life goals, and finding the educational options suitable to reach those goals. Students of all ages need to clearly understand the various education and training possibilities that are available to help them pursue opportunities and achieve success in the 21st century.
When students don't have knowledge of their educational options and there are not clear paths to help them from one place to another, many drop out of the system and do not get the education needed to move them to the next level or toward their career goals. Outstanding career counseling for all students is just the starting point for implementation of this recommendation. In addition to the need for effective career counseling, many students begin their postsecondary education with academic, family, financial and other challenges that make staying continuously enrolled in a multi-year program of study difficult. Supports are needed to address students' academic needs, career goals and life circumstances.
The Puente Project
The Puente Project was created at Chabot Community College in Hayward, California, in 1981 by a community college counselor and an English professor who were concerned about the high dropout rate for Latino and Hispanic students. When the pilot program proved highly effective in student retention and academic performance, Puente's mission was refocused to prepare students for transfer to four-year colleges and universities. The success of the program model has led to its replication in 56 community colleges.
Puente's model includes an academically challenging curriculum, support networks of specially trained teachers, professors and counselors and outreach programs to involve parents, families and members of the local community. Application of this model begins with teams of school and college faculty being trained in Puente's specific rigorous instruction, academic counseling focused on individual students' needs, and finding community members to be mentors. Puente's model works because it addresses a broad cross section of challenges that students face. By participating in the program, students gain a familiarity with the overall social and educational systems which help them find clear paths between high schools and postsecondary education and training.
The mentoring and outreach programs help students find role models in other students, teachers and the community. Parents are given access to and understanding of information and resources that are important for them to help their children, and understand their educational and career interests. Students in Puente schools have a focused and sustained academic plan that leads them to the completion of the steps necessary to achieve their postsecondary education goals.
The Community College Program
Puente Project's Community College Program uses six integrated strategies to create a multifaceted system of student supports to help them achieve success: teaching, counseling, mentoring, leadership development, enrichment opportunities and ongoing support. …