Today ASPIRA “Makes the Future” and Celebrates its 50 Year Anniversary
Photo: ASPIRA Celebrates 50th Anniversary
ASPIRA is celebrating its 50th Anniversary Salute today, May 19, 2001, at Cipriani Wall Street to honor those who have had a significant impact on the Latino community and on ASPIRA.
The celebration’s theme, “Make The Future,” honors Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient Dr. Antonia Pantoja, who founded the organization in 1961. Over that time, ASPIRA has grown from a local organization to the nation’s largest Latino nonprofit dedicated to educating and developing the next generation of Latino leaders.
ASPIRA’s 50th Anniversary Salute honorees will be Academy Award-nominated actress and Emmy Award-nominated choreographer Rosie Perez, Youth Empowerment Award; Emmy Award winning actor and ASPIRA alumnus Jimmy Smits, Arts & Culture Award; Lorraine Cortes-Vazquez, Executive Vice President of AARP, Leadership Award; Dr. Ricardo R. Fernandez, President of Lehman College, Education Award; and Louis Nunez, Former Executive Director ASPIRA, Community Service Award.
“At a time when Latino youth face insurmountable educational challenges, ASPIRAntes are going to College at a 90% rate,” said Hector Gesualdo, Executive Director of ASPIRA of NY who added, “more needs to be done. Through events like this one we are asking our political and business leaders, as well as our community, to also commit themselves and participate in developing the future global workforce of our country while we celebrate our history.”
Over half a million young Latinos and Latinas have benefited from ASPIRA’s youth development, guidance counseling and mentoring programs. The main issue confronting the Latino community today is education. Over 40% of Latinos do not complete high school, and ASPIRA’s success in addressing the Latino dropout rate has been very successful. Over 95% of the 55,000 Aspirantes participating in the program complete high school and over 90% go on to college.
“The ASPIRA Association is the only national Hispanic organization dedicated exclusively to developing the educational and leadership capacity of Hispanic youth,” explained Ronald Blackburn-Moreno, President of the National ASPIRA Association. “Since 1961, ASPIRA has been working at the grass-roots level to provide programs that encourage Hispanic students to stay in school, prepare them to succeed in the educational arena, develop their leadership skills, and to serve their community. In addition to New York where the organization was founded, we operate in seven other states and Puerto Rico.”
Over 85,000 students participate each year through ASPIRA Clubs in schools, after-school education and guidance programs. ASPIRA is a very diverse organization working with substantial numbers of Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, Central Americans, Mexicans, and Cubans, as well as with African Americans, non-Hispanic whites, and Haitians, among others. It counts Hispanic leaders from a variety of business and political sectors as alumni or “ASPIRAntes.”