On October 3rd of 2013, Puente Program students of Norco College enjoyed a Family Night at John F. Kennedy Middle College hosted by the program coordinators, David Payan and Andres Elizalde. The students and their families, almost 75 people, were welcomed by the president of Norco College, Dr. Paul Parnell; the dean of student services, Dr. Koji Uesugi; Dr. Diane Dieckmeyer, Vice-President of Academic Services. Everyone enjoyed a dinner with Mexican dishes in a room decorated with balloons and papelpicado ("perforated paper"), which is a decorative craft, made out of paper, cut into elaborate designs and considered a Mexican folk art.
The dinner was followed by a speech by Patricia Gill, who has been an active member of the Puente Program as a mentor. Patricia, being a mother of a college student herself, aimed her speech to the parents, and addressed topics such as letting the students take important decisions in college, and the communication between parents and the students.
After the speech by Patricia Gill, Puentistas went to the front of the room to read letters to their parents, close friends and family, thanking them for the encouragement and support that they had received throughout their school years, and sharing future goals and dreams that they wish to accomplish. For student Paulina Olmedo, this was a “heart-warming night [that] gave each and every one of us a chance to say ‘Thank you’ to our loved ones for all the support they have given us.” Student Angelica Villa stated: “My husband and children told me that they were proud of me, and that means a lot. Having their support in this journey motivates me to keep on doing my best effort to continue with my education.” Familia Night brought everyone closer, and as Alejandra Galindo said, “Familia Night was a night where our new Puente familia got the opportunity to meet our family. We were able to express our gratitude towards both families, and we bonded as a group of individuals all seeking to make a difference in this world by attaining a higher education.”
This night made an impact not only on the students, but the parents and program coordinators were touched by the motivation shown by the students. Flora Gonzalez, mother of Raul Gonzaled, said: "Me encanta este programa. Estoy muy orgullosa de mi hijo Raul que ya es puentista" [I love this program. I'm very proud of my son Raul, who is a puentista].
David Payan, Puente Counselor, shared that the evening was “a rare one in higher education. Bringing the college and parents together is a special treat for our students. Noche de Familia gives parents a chance to see and hear about the world their son/daughter or loved one is now embracing.” Similarly, Andres Elizalde, English Instructor, shared: “Familia Night was special to me because we all were able to share of ourselves with our communities and express our gratitude to the students’ parents for their continued support.
This marked the end of the night; a night full of special moments, great speeches, and amazing energy.