" To empower our community through advocacy, education & leadership development. "
In 1961, Dr. Antonia Pantoja and a group of educators and professionals created ASPIRA (Spanish word for “aspire”), to address the exceedingly high dropout rate and low educational attainment of Puerto Rican youth. They were convinced that the only way to free the Latino community from poverty and to promote its full development was by focusing on the education of young people, and developing their leadership potential, self-esteem, and pride in their cultural heritage. The ASPIRA Association is currently the largest nonprofit organization dedicated to Hispanic education in the United States, with nine (9) affiliates in the United States and Puerto Rico.
ASPIRA’s model is “leadership through education.” We place a high priority on student-centered, participatory projects that ask students to consciously and intentionally take part in their development and the social transformation of their community. ASPIRA students engage in what we call the “ASPIRA Process,” which involves three concepts: Awareness, Analysis, and Action.
AWARENESS: WHAT DO I KNOW? Awareness is the process of verbalizing or otherwise expressing already held knowledge on a subject matter, thereby validating and investigating personal sensitivity and understanding. Awareness focuses on the development of self-value and value of others through the lens of prior knowledge and perception.
ANALYSIS: WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW? Through an inquiry-based process for obtaining, sharing, and digesting information, ASPIRA students engage in group work and critical thinking. In doing so, students expand their knowledge of themselves and of others. Specific emphasis is placed on the analysis on culture, race, gender, ethnic background, and history, and how those various topics affect today’s society and life structure.
ACTION: MAKING IT HAPPEN. Action is the process of putting the knowledge and skills one has acquired to use for the benefit of oneself, one’s family, and one’s community. Through involvement in community service projects and through participation in afterschool leadership clubs and the ASPIRA Clubs Federation, each student has opportunities to assume leadership responsibilities and to work cooperatively with a small group to achieve common goals.