| Program: || El Puente, Brooklyn, NY |
| Contact(s): || Luis Garden Acosta, President: (718) 387-0404 or Frances Lucerna, Academy Principal: (718) 599-2895 |
| Purpose: || El Puente works to bridge communities of different races, cultures and economic classes to build stronger neighborhoods in Brooklyn and beyond |
El Puente is a community and youth leadership movement, focused on peace and justice, headquartered in Brooklyn, New York. It was founded in 1982 by Luis Garden Acosta and a group of community activists who are responding to a wave of violence in Brooklyn's Williamsburg neighborhood; in the previous year, 48 young people were killed in that neighborhood. El Puente works to bridge differences among races, cultures, economic classes and communities to promote community development, voter participation, racial healing and human rights.
El Puente operates the first public high school focused on human rights, the El Puente Academy for Peace and Justice (Academy). The Academy works to offer a holistic learning experience for its students. The school provides meals and a safe learning environment, enhances the students' self-esteem through the curriculum, and facilitates involvement in community work projects, which build on their academic learning. El Puente also operates a health center which vaccinates children, concentrates on family health and works with AIDS issues. The center works to foster community development, protect the environment and create parks. In addition, El Puente focuses on strengthening its community by building coalitions with other organizations. For example, El Puente joined with the Community Alliance for the Environment (CAFE) to bring together members of the Hispanic, Hasidic, Polish, Italian and black communities.
Outcomes and Significant Accomplishments
In 1995, the New York Times cited El Puente as "A Bridge from Hope to Social Action." An alumnus of the El Puente Cultural Center won a 1997 Tony Award in the play RENT. Alumni have gone on to graduate from top universities. Moreover, members of El Puente have been active in local environmental issues and have worked on local cleanup projects. For example, El Puente and CAFE helped to stop the construction of a trash incinerator in their community.