When the Guaynabo Bridge to Employment (BTE) partnership began at La Nueva Escuela in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico in 1998, 40 percent of its student body was in danger of dropping out before entering high school. Ninety-seven percent of the students at La Nueva Escuela (a Montessori school) come from households below the poverty level.
The BTE program used unique approaches to reduce the dropout rate, motivate students to pursue additional education, and equip youth with work-related skills. Working with approximately 30 students (grades 5-9), the BTE program focused on "contextualized learning models." Students provided assistance with the school infirmary and learned about the manufacturing aspects of medicine, while continuing to take the prescribed curriculum in the school. Through the BTE grant, La Nueva Escuela was able to hire a school nurse, which had tremendous benefits not only to the school, where students helped the school nurse deliver preventive education, but also to the rest of the community.
In addition, students were paired with a mentor, a caring adult from the community, and placed in a health care work setting where they had the opportunity to tour the local Johnson & Johnson facility and gained exposure to unique health care career paths.