Puentes al Futuro

(From The Campus Lantern – May 2, 2013)

There is an amazing weekly volunteering program through the Center for Community Engagement (CCE) called Puentes al Futuro, or Bridges to the Future.  Puentes started off as a summer program held on the Eastern campus for Windham Middle School students.  The students took classes in classrooms on campus and ate lunch here.  In the Fall 2012 semester, the program extended into an after-school program for the students.  Eastern students volunteered to tutor the students and help with their homework.  On some days the middle schoolers would come to Eastern and some days they would stay at their school.

In addition to continuing the middle school after-school program, Puentes reached out to Windham High School this semester.  At the 2013 Service Expo held by the CCE on April 18, Puentes won three out of the six awards, including “Best New Program.”  The program is already extremely successful, and is going to become better with each semester.

I started working and volunteering for Puentes this semester.  Every Thursday, I taught the middle school students a literacy class for about one hour, and then another Eastern student taught them math for another hour.  For the remaining hour of the after school program, the tutors helped the students with any homework they had.  It took a few weeks to warm up to the students and for them to warm up to me, but now I feel like I am a positive role model and mentor for them.

About half-way through the semester I came up with the idea to make a recipe book with the students for the literacy class.  Each week, they worked on writing stories about their favorite family recipes.  Most of the recipes were from the countries that their ancestors were from, so the stories helped the students to gain some insight about their cultures.  They also brought in recipes to go with the stories.  By the middle of April, everyone’s story was perfected.  I formatted the book, and the CCE printed them out.  The middle school students are officially published authors.

On Tuesdays, the middle school girls go to a dancing class and the boys go to a drumming class.  On Wednesdays, the students work on paper-mâché masks.  The tutors help them with their dancing, drumming and mask-making, as well as with their homework.  Puentes successfully mixes academics with entertainment and cultural learning.

On Wednesday, May 1, the middle school students had a performance to showcase the dance they learned, their drumming skills, and the masks they made in the art class.  The show was from 5:00 PM – 7:00 PM in Shafer Auditorium.  The books that the students created were available for purchase before the show.  The books, which are 40 pages long, were sold for $5 and all the proceeds went to the Puentes program.

If you would like to volunteer for this program next semester, and I advise that you do, contact Kimberly Silcox at silcoxk@easternct.edu or (860) 465-4426.


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