For the first time since becoming a federally recognized Hispanic Serving Institution in February, Sonoma State University will be receiving a grant in connection to the designation, one that’s designed to help recruit more educators.
SSU will be receiving $2.75 million in funds to help educate more Hispanic teachers by creating a new program called Preparing Under-Represented Educators to Realize their Teaching Ambitions.
The grant comes from the U.S. Department of Education, and is part of $8.1 million in federal funds that has been awarded to CSU campuses such as Sonoma, Sacramento and Long Beach in hopes of minimizing the shortage of teachers in underserved communities.
“PUERTA is opening the door to our local Latino community in a way we haven’t been able to do before,” said Kelly Estrada, the leader of the PUERTA project for SSU faculty.
The school initiated the PUERTA Project on Oct. 1, and it will run for five years until spring 2022.
According to Estrada, Hispanic and Latino students during the academic year, and over the summer at Summer Bridge, will be provided academic support and professional development for all five years of the project.
Estrada says the grant has three specific goals.
“The first to increase student academic success as measured by persistence and graduation rates. Secondly, to increase the number of Hispanic and Latino students earning a teaching credential. Lastly, to increase the number of students who transfer from a two-year (Hispanic-serving institution) to SSU,” she said.
The school designed PUERTA to help those who feel blocked from achieving their goal of becoming an educator and aims to remove barriers that prevent students from pursuing or earning a teaching credential, Estrada said.
“It is by conscious design that we developed the PUERTA acronym, as it means ‘door’ in Spanish and serves as a great metaphor for what we are attempting to do with these funds,” Estrada said. “PUERTA funds will be used to provide academic support and professional development in the form of mentorship to Hispanic and Latino students who are considering or aspiring to become future educators.”
According to Estrada, only around 10 percent of students that SSU prepares to be teachers are Hispanic.
“PUERTA hopes to increase Hispanic and Latino representation in the teacher population,” she said.
According to Estrada, they will be initially working with Santa Rosa Junior College to identify Hispanic and Latino students who are both considering becoming teachers and planning on transferring to SSU to connect them with the PUERTA project. Dean of the School of Education Dr. Carlos Ayala also emphasized how PUERTA is an important resource that will combat the teacher shortage in California, especially in underserved communities.
“We need to increase the number of teachers we prepare because of the teacher shortage,” Ayala said. “We are working towards preparing more teachers who look like the students they will serve.”
SSU will also establish the PUERTA Centro for Diversity in Teaching on campus, which will supply Hispanic and Latino students pursuing a teaching profession with advice, counseling and career services, and academic assistance.
The PUERTA program is serving no SSU students as of now; however, it will provide services starting Spring 2018.
Estrada explained what SSU students who will eventually participate in the PUERTA program should expect.
“SSU students will serve as peer tutors, Supplemental Instruction providers and teaching ambassador professional mentors. Those students who are hired to work in these positions will receive training through the Student Affairs division for providing this support,” Estrada said.
According to Ayala, this grant exists to provide students with resources to achieve success.
“All students need this type of support,” Ayala said. “This grant provides students who are of higher need with the resources to help them be successful. We need to increase all the pipelines to teaching. This grant is one piece of that recruitment plan.”