Project Puente

AWC earns $1.11 million from Department of Education to strengthen secondary and postsecondary CTE pathways

January 31, 2024

Funds to help bridge the gap between high school and higher education through Project Puente

Yuma, AZ (January 31, 2024) – Arizona Western College was selected by the U.S. Department of Education to receive over $1.11 million in funding to bolster existing pathways between secondary and postsecondary career and technical education programs.

The Perkins-funded Career Connected High Schools (CCHS) grant program allows educational institutions and workforce systems to partner with business and industry to develop new high-quality, career-connected high school programs.

Grantees will leverage four evidence-based strategies to help students unlock career success including:

•    Providing postsecondary education and career guidance
•    Increasing access to dual or concurrent enrollment programs
•    Increasing work-based learning opportunities
•    Providing industry-recognized credentials

The grant is part of the U.S. Department of Education Raise the Bar: Unlocking Career Success initiative, aimed at helping young people access good-paying jobs. The CCHS grant program is intended to build capacity and coordination among secondary and postsecondary education, workforce development systems, and other community partners to expand access to career-connected high school programs for more students, with a focus on increasing access to high-quality pathways for underserved students.

At Arizona Western College, the funds will help bridge the gap between high school and higher education through the Project Puente initiative. The program aims to revolutionize the educational experience for high school students by providing equitable and efficient pathways to industry-recognized postsecondary credentials, preparing students for future careers in Clean Energy, Construction, Manufacturing Technology, Information Technology, and Engineering. 

“I am thrilled to announce that Arizona Western College has been awarded a Perkins Innovation and Modernization grant for Project Puente. With this grant, Arizona Western College, alongside our consortium partners, embarks on a groundbreaking initiative to build bridges for our students, connecting high school aspirations to rewarding careers,” said Dr. Daniel Corr, AWC President. “Project Puente exemplifies our dedication to student success, workforce development, and creating pathways to prosperity. Together, we are shaping a future where education is a catalyst for positive change and economic empowerment in our community and beyond.”

Under the administrative oversight of Reetika Dhawan, AWC Entrepreneurial College Chief Executive Officer and Vice President of Workforce & Healthcare Programs, the consortium is set to redefine educational pathways by using a strategic network of evidence-based student services. 

“Project Puente marks a transformative initiative in Arizona, pioneering a collaborative approach to bridge the gap between high school and higher education for a diverse and predominantly isolated population,” said Dhawan. “By uniting four institutions, including two Hispanic Serving Institutions, Puente aspires to serve approximately 41,900 students, creating a blueprint for impactful change and empowering bilingual Hispanic and low-income students across Southern, Central, and Northern Arizona. This program is not just a bridge, it's a transformative journey towards educational equity and a brighter future for our communities.”

AWC administration will be traveling to Washington, DC for the Community College National Legislative Summit on Feb. 4-7, where they will also attend a meeting at the U.S. Department of Education Headquarters to discuss the leadership role that AWC will play in Arizona’s career pathway ecosystem.

The U.S. Department of Education received more than 160 eligible applications for CCHS grant funding from 43 states and the District of Columbia, requesting more than $850 million to implement comprehensive career-connected learning projects.

Reetika Dhawan
Chief Executive Officer, Entrepreneurial College 
Vice President of Workforce & Healthcare Programs
Arizona Western College

Travis Mitchell 
Entrepreneurial College Marketing Director 
Arizona Western College