imperialcountyofficeofeducationproyectopuentesbridgesprogramProyecto Puentes/Bridges Program
Imperial County Office of Education, Student Well-Being and Family Resources Department
Imperial County, California

About our project:

Imperial County is located in southeast California on the U.S. border with Mexico and has been a destination for immigrants from Mexico since the 1920’s. The immigrants come to work the fields of the surrounding area that is known as the “winter vegetable basket of America”. In the 2000 census, 32% of Imperial County’s population of 142,361 was born in Mexico. Approximately 73% of the county’s population is Latino. Estimates from The Center for Cross-Border Regional Economic Studies (CCBRES) are that 13,063 immigrants from Mexico moved to Imperial County between the years of 2001 and 2004 and this is thought to be low because it is based on drivers license applications. The Proyecto Puentes/Bridges Program is a program built on an existing Student Assistant Representative (SAR) program operated by the Imperial County Office of Education. The model was developed from a chemical dependency model of early intervention and uses group training and ongoing group supervision to train/supervise paraprofessionals who in turn work with at risk students. The SAR role (currently about 18 SARs in various schools in Imperial County) is to be available to a school population of students, interacting with students, teachers, and parents, identifying students in need and referring them for services within the school system or to community based services. For more information, view our poster.

Demographic data:

Imperial County:

Our work:

Building on the successful SAR program in Imperial County, Proyecto Puentes program expands the tradition role of the SAR in two area middle schools to include intensive case management and group interventions (parent platicas and groups with students) as additional support to students and their families. These additional services reduce the barriers in accessing mental health services and the groups provide an intensive early intervention and prevention service for new immigrant students and their families. The Proyecto Puentes Program targets schools in the two Imperial county communities closest to the border with Mexico, Calexico and Heber. Calexico is located directly on the border separated by a 20 foot wire fence from the Capital of Baja California, Mexicali. Heber is an unincorporated area 6 miles from the border and designated by the federal government as a “colonia” (an impoverished community located near the boder with substandard housing and inadequate water, sewage and other infrastructure). Calexico Unified School District and Heber Elementary School District do not collect data on the immigration status of students however, enrollment of English learners and in migrant education programs indicates that Calexico has 99% Latino students and 71% are English language learners and 23% enrolled in migrant education programs. In Heber, 99% are Latino, 75% are English language learners and 43% are enrolled in migrant education programs.

Our Partners:

Imperial County Office of Education: Student Well Being and Family Resources
Calexico Unified School District
Heber Unified School District
Imperial County Behavioral Health Department
Neighborhood House
Concillio Consejero Regional De Padres Migrantes

What we are learning:

We are expanding a well established evidence-based Student Assistance Program by adding more follow up (case management) with families to help them maneuver through American service systems including schools and mental health services. To reduce mental health stigma, program staff provides training to teachers, students and parents about mental health issues. The program hires para professional who receive extensive training and weekly supervision. A training manual is being written on this model.

New Resources Available:

The Imperial County Office of Education has made available its “New Employee Training Manual” based on its successful Student-Assistant Representative program. Among many topics, this New Employee Training Manual includes information on training in communications, group facilitation, accessing community resources, and the impacts of immigration.

New Employee Training Manual
Proyecto Puentes/Bridges Powerpoint Presentation-Imperial County Office of Education, Student Well-Being & Family Resources Department

For more information about this project, contact Mike McFadden at