SAN MARCOS — Three Palomar College students have been awarded Puente Statewide Community College Scholarships, capping their first year in college and the successful completion of a program focused on college and transfer success.
The students selected as scholarship recipients were Chris Garcia, 19, of San Marcos; Lorna Martinez, 18, of Vista; and Oseas Garcia, 20, of Escondido. The recipients from Palomar took home three of only 30 scholarships offered to Puente programs throughout the state.
Cynthia Cordova, a Counselor and Assistant Professor at Palomar, said the scholarships will help the students stay in college for the 2021-22 academic year, transfer to four-year institutions, earn bachelor degrees, and ultimately return to their communities as mentors and leaders.
“These three students exemplify what being a Puente student is about,” said Cordova, who serves as Puente Counselor and Co-Coordinator. “They’re so resilient—the things they have gone through in their lives, it’s a lot. Then they would show up to class, get their assignments done and get really good grades. What set them apart was being willing to ask for help when they needed it.
“I’m not surprised at all that they were selected for these scholarships,” she added.
“Congratulations to Chris, Lorna and Oseas for their selection as Puente scholarships recipients—and to all of the Puente students, staff and faculty for the success that this program has consistently achieved,” said Interim Superintendent/President Dr. Jack Kahn.
Chris Garcia said he had such a positive experience in Puente that he has encouraged his sister and others to join the program. Garcia plans to transfer to a four-year college and major in a STEM-related field.
“Puente has helped me so much,” he said. “The program is not just about completing academic units—it’s more about growing as a person. And the best part is that I’ve been able to connect to my roots.”
Lorna Martinez said many of the students in Puente are first-generation college students, like she was when she enrolled last fall.
“Puente has helped me understand more about our culture, and embrace it,” she said. “As a first-generation student, it’s really hard—and even harder during the pandemic—to navigate college. This has helped us adapt to college life. Having that support with the counselors, professors and mentors, being able to connect with them, was really helpful.”
Martinez said she plans to transfer to UCLA or Cal State San Marcos to study nursing.
said the most valuable part of his Puente experience was the additional guidance the program afforded him.
“As a freshman going into college, you’re really not sure what to do, and it’s really easy to get lost—especially with COVID-19 going on,” said Garcia. “Being in the Puente program has helped me a lot. At Palomar, you get that sense of family.”
Garcia said he plans to transfer to UCLA or UCSD, major in history and go to law school.
Cordova said the Puente program was started in the 1980s to increase the number of students in community college who transfer to universities. In five years at Palomar, Puente has helped dozens of students transfer to four-year institutions by providing counseling, English instruction, instruction in college and transfer success, and mentorship.
“The classes are taught through a Latino, Chicano perspective, using Latino and Chicano authors, which incorporates culturally relevant teaching,” said Cordova. “We talk about issues that are relevant to these students, because it’s a lot more engaging that way—when students are interested in what they’re learning, they do better.”
The mentorship aspect of the program brings community leaders to campus, so the students can envision their own future professional lives. Puente also provides opportunities for students’ families to come to campus and be included in the process.
At any given time, Cordova said, the program’s staff is serving as many as 80 Puente students, but the active, first-year cohort that begins each fall includes 25 college freshmen.
“The program really works,” she said. “I was a Puente student back when I was in community college, and it’s really awesome to be able to do this for students now.”