BOYLE HEIGHTS : Learning Center to Open Satellite

PUENTE Learning Center, which has offered free language and job-training classes to Eastside residents since 1985, will has scheduled a July 28 grand opening for its new center in South-Central.

The new center, at 10000 Western Ave., is a former Arco station damaged in the 1992 riots and converted into classrooms. Arco awarded PUENTE a $1-million grant to buy the land, erect mobile classroom units and operate the program for about two years.

The opening comes in the midst of a fund-raising campaign to help PUENTE build a permanent, 40,000-square-foot center at its Boyle Heights location, at 501 S. Boyle Ave. PUENTE, which stands for People United to Enrich the Neighborhood Through Education, was started in 1985 by Sister Jennie Lechtenberg.

Having raised $5.5 million toward its $9.5-million goal, Lechtenberg hopes to have the new center built within a year. Classes and offices are now in mobile units.

Although PUENTE had not planned to expand beyond East Los Angeles, the offer from Arco was too good to pass up.

"First of all, there's such a need in South-Central for this type of center," Lechtenberg said. The Arco grant enables PUENTE to start classes without having to immediately raise money to run the programs.

PUENTE enrolls 1,400 students a day. They include preschoolers who learn computer skills as well as adults who learn English and job skills. PUENTE South will enroll about 300 adults, with a focus on English as a second language, computer literacy and Spanish.

The grand opening will begin at 10 a.m.

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