Cypress Puente @ UC Berkeley

Cypress College Puente Program visits UC Berkeley, March 2016.
Cypress College Puente Program visits UC Berkeley, March 2016.

With a 100% retention rate and a transfer rate of nearly 70%, the Puente Project at Cypress College is one of the strongest, most successful programs on campus.

Open to all underserved minority students, Puente helps those from low-income, underrepresented communities transfer to and graduate from four-year colleges and universities. At the start of each academic year, a cohort of 30-some students embark on an intensive year-long curriculum in which they are brought up to speed in college-level writing, given access to cultural events and university trips, paired with a professional mentor and imbued with the infectious Sí, se puede Puente spirit – Yes, you can accomplish what you set out to achieve. Through this process of academic growth and camaraderie they become Puentistas – poised to successfully move on to the next steps in their educational and personal paths.

For some of our Puentistas that next step is UC Berkeley – one of the nation’s premier public research universities. Our Puente students transfer to and succeed at Cal in impressive fashion, and then move on to successful career and life paths.

Two examples are Jesus Madrigal and Gaby Estella Garcia, both of whom our current crew of Puentistas had the pleasure of meeting on a recent Northern University Trip in March. Jesus and Gaby are 2013 Cypress/Puente alums and 2015 UC Berkeley graduates. Jesus transferred to Cal as a junior after completing his general education course requirements at Cypress. He is currently a Ph.D. Russian Literature candidate at Berkley. When he finishes his dissertation (in many years to come!), he plans to teach on the East Coast, preferably in New York (he was also accepted for a Ph.D. program at Columbia University). Gaby also graduated from Cal last year and is now working as a marketing contractor for Google in the Bay area.

2013 Cypress College / Puente alums and 2015 UC Berkeley graduates.
2013 Cypress College / Puente alums and 2015 UC Berkeley graduates.

Gaby and Jesus’ stories are especially notable in that they both started at Cypress as remedial students. They credit Puente as having transformed their lives – getting them through English 60 and 100 and then on to subsequent academic success. They fully embraced the Sí, Se Puede ethos – they worked hard and smart, sought out great professors and guidance, set lofty goals… and transferred with distinction.

Cypress has thousands of similar student stories: individuals who started at the base of the academic tier and are now doctors, lawyers, industry creatives, professors, community leaders, the list goes on. By improving individual lives, Puente –and many other academic and cultural programs at Cypress – contributes to positive local change.

Whether you’re enrolled in a program similar to Puente or not, UC Berkeley is a viable option for Cypress College/California Community College (CCC) students. Currently, Cal accepts approximately 25 percent of CCC transfers. This figure is set to increase as UC Berkeley plans to admit greater percentages of transfer students in coming years. As a whole, transfer students have clearly demonstrated their academic value to the UC’s. In fact, nearly 30% of all UC graduates started at a California community college, and nearly half of all UC graduates in the STEM fields are California Community College transfer students.

UC Berkeley Office of Admission Transfer Panel, March 2016.
UC Berkeley Office of Admissions Transfer Panel, March 2016.

So how to transfer to Cal? Some advice from the Office of Admissions and student panel that spoke to our Cypress Puente group: 1) Fill out your applications to a tee – don’t miss deadlines, signatures or documents; 2) Ensure that your personal statement details your unique, compelling narrative – how have your experiences shaped you to be a more resilient person? How will you contribute to the Cal community? Candidates that can show how they’ve overcome diversity, demonstrate that they are broad-minded thinkers with life experiences in-tow – these are individuals that the Office of Admissions may be more apt to recognize as contributors to the intellectual vibrancy and diversity of the institution; 3) Don’t be afraid of a few “W’s” on your transcript, but definitely explain a whole slew of them by attaching an addendum to your application; 4) Recommendation letters from professors who know you well is, of course, a plus; 5) While the Admissions Office doesn’t discard any application based on GPA (they read them all!), aim for at least a 3.0 (the higher the better).

In addition to this Cal visit, Puente students spent the remaining two days of their Northern Trip touring other top-notch transfer options, including: Stanford, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, UC Santa Barbara and UC Santa Cruz. Students came away with a feel for each campus, and first-hand insight into the fact that transferring is definitely doable. Sí, se puede!

For a photo tour of our Puente visit to Cal, access the full gallery posted on Facebook. Also, the Transfer Center offers numerous transfer tours throughout the year. These are free to all Cypress students. For upcoming tours and additional information access the Cypress College Transfer Center page.

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Cypress College is recognized as one of California’s top community colleges. Recent 2015-16 accolades include:

– #1 in the U.S. | Top Toyota T-TEN Auto-Tech Program in the Nation.

– #2 in C.A. | Top Two ESL & Basic Skills English Programs in California.

– #3 in C.A. | Ranked as a Top Three California Community College (Schools.com)

– #3 in the Region | Ranked Top Three in Greater Los Angeles & Orange County for Student Transfer and Graduation Rates (EdSmart.org)

– 15 of 113 | California Community Colleges piloting a Bachelor’s Degree (Mortuary Science)

– #17 in the U.S. | National Ranking on MTV-U’s website “Rate-My-Professor”

– Top National Licensure Exam Pass Rates | Perfect state licensure pass rates for students in the following programs: Dental Hygiene, Diagnostic Medical Sonography: Abdomen; Diagnostic Medical Sonography (OB/Gyn); Diagnostic Medical Sonography: Physics; and Mortuary Science: Sciences. 90+% state licensure exam pass rates for students in the following programs: Dental Assisting; Mortuary Science (Arts); Radiology Technology. And85%+ state licensure rates for students in: Health Information Technology; Nursing; and Psychiatric Technology.

– 2/3ds of the Class of 2015 qualified for transfer to a UC or CSU institution.

– 75 Orange Empire Athletics Conference Titles

– 25 California Community College Athletic Association State Championship Titles

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