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The ASPIRA Association is a nonprofit organization whose mission is "To empower the Puerto Rican and Latino community through advocacy and the education and leadership development of its youth". ASPIRA's national office is in Washington, D.C. and it has affiliates in Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Puerto Rico.
Former ASPIRA club members, or ASPIRANTES, as they are known, include ACLU's Anthony Romero, former Bronx Borough President and New York City democratic mayoral nominee Fernando Ferrer, Illinois politician Billy Ocasio and actor Jimmy Smits.
ASPIRA was founded in New York City in 1961 by Dr. Antonia Pantoja to combat the exorbitant dropout rate among Puerto Rican high school youth. It expanded nationally in 1968 as ASPIRA of America—today known as The ASPIRA Association.
ASPIRA of New York
Aspira of New York operates youth development clubs, dropout prevention initiatives and after school programs which serve more than 8,000 young people each year in the five boroughs of New York City and Nassau and Suffolk counties. ASPIRA of New York, with the support of ASPIRA of America and the representation of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, filed a suit against the New York City Board of Education in 1972 that led to the ASPIRA Consent Decree. The decree, signed August 29, 1974, established the right of New York City public school students with limited English proficiency to receive bilingual education.
ASPIRA of Pennsylvania
ASPIRA's Pennsylvania affiliate was founded in 1969 and operates several community-based programs and five charter schools - Antonia Pantoja Charter School, Eugenio Maria De Hostos Charter School, John B. Stetson Charter School, ASPIRA Bilingual Cyber Charter School, and Olney Charter High School. Stetson and Olney are both Renaissance turnarounds - former School District of Philadelphia schools that were struggling and marked for conversion to charters managed by ASPIRA. Both schools have drastically improved in academic performance and behavior since ASPIRA's management of the schools.
ASPIRA of Illinois
ASPIRA of Illinois operates three charter high schools and one charter middle school. The board of directors voted 5-4 to fire its CEO in March 2012 due to low test scores - Aspira of Illinois student test scores were lower than averages for the Chicago Public Schools for at least six years in a row.
- Official ASPIRA Website
- ASPIRA Inc. Of Pennsylvania Website
- ASPIRA of Illinois Website
- ASPIRA of New York Website
- "ASPIRA Mission Statement". Retrieved 3 February 2014.
- "ASPIRA Who we Serve". Retrieved 3 February 2014.
- "HONORING THE FIFTIETH ANNIVERSARY OF ASPIRA". [Congressional Record Volume 157, Number 36. Retrieved 8 February 2014.
- Lavietes, Stuart. "Antonia Pantoja, Champion Of Bilingualism, Dies at 80". The New York Times. Retrieved 2013-09-18.
- Reyes, Luis. "The Aspira Consent Decree: A Thirtieth-Anniversary Retrospective of Bilingual Education in New York City". Harvard Educational Review (Fall 2006).
- Golab, Art. "ASPIRA charter school CEO fired". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2013-09-19.