PHOTO AND STORY BY BELLA GARCIA, STAFF WRITER
In time to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, the Legacy and Puente programs commemorated the grand opening of their centers on Sept. 22 from 4 PM to 7 PM in front of the Humanities building.
For the first hour, families, friends, and passerbyers who were curious about the event trickled in to find a spot for the evening. At each table, guests were greeted with beautifully arranged flower centerpieces, a catalog of the event’s plans, and a Legacy Program pamphlet.
Soon after the event kickoff, the mariachi band walked in queuing immediate cheering from attendees. After saying that the mariachis had “made the whole event,” coordinator and counselor of the Puente Program, Therese Monsqueda-Ponce, introduced Puentista, Jocelyn Acevedo. Acevedo joined the band for a few songs while guests showed themselves to the food and others danced to the live music.
As things ran exactly on time, the first speaker, Cypress College President, JoAnna Schilling, made her way to the podium. She expressed the excitement of the long-awaited occasion saying, “Building a room or center is just four walls and a ceiling…but made special because of the people.”
Following Schilling, Dr. Troy Davis, Dean of Counseling, said he would like to see more black and brown events together as “there is enough space for black students and our Chicano, Hispanic, and Latinx students to exist and represent together.”
A portion of the night was dedicated to recognizing the people who put such hard work into the programs. Certifications were handed to Therese Mosqueda-Ponce, Alejandro Omidsalar, Regina Rhymes, and Laron Armstead including one from senator Josh Newman, who was not in attendance.
Throughout the event, you would hear the words base, home, and safe space interchangeably to describe the program’s new centers.
A home is exactly what the centers will be as Mosqueda-Ponce recalls what it took to get to where the program is. Mosqueda-Ponce was first approached in 1992 to be the counselor for the Puente program but with teacher refusal, there was no shot of a successful program.
It wasn’t until 1996 when former Cypress College President, Christine Johnson, came into the picture that there was real support for the program.
Nostalgic about the beginning years of the programs, Mosqueda-Ponce reminisces about seeing students fulfill their dreams. “We had zero drops, 100% retention, and now have an 81.8% transfer success rate, so boy, did we show them,” said Mosqueda-Ponce.
Drawing attention back to the event, Mosqueda-Ponce tells of the hard work put into making it come together. “You look around and you saw countless students in their Puente and Legacy shirts,” said Mosqueda-Ponce, “if it weren’t for the students who volunteered to give back, it wouldn’t have been the same.”
The unveiling of the mural painted by artist and former Cypress College instructor, Obed Silva, added to the glorious occasion. Depicting a life of Puente and Latino history, Silva placed Mosqueda-Ponce in the middle of a mural describing her as the heart of the program. In addition, the mural includes a bridge which represents bridging community college students to the university level.
The mural is in the home of the Puente Center to motivate students to succeed in their way.
In the spirit of engagement and belonging, the two community programs coming together to be recognized was long overdue. Students of the programs now have the space to learn significant cultural experiences and create fellowship which will contribute to cultivating and nourishing their success.
Students appear to be in the best of hands with mentors like Mosqueda-Ponce who proclaims the program her “mission in life.”