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Our History

ASPIRA of New York has been dedicated to serving New York City youth and their families, providing opportunities that would otherwise not be available to them, and serving as an effective advocate, fighting to improve education in the Puerto Rican and Latino communities.


In 1961, Dr. Antonia Pantoja and a group of Puerto Rican educators and professionals created ASPIRA (which means aspire in Spanish) to address the exceedingly high drop-out rate and low educational attainment of Puerto Rican youth. They were convinced that the only way to free the Puerto Rican community from poverty and promote its full development was by focusing on young people’s education and developing their leadership potential, self-esteem, and pride in their cultural heritage. This was the best way, they believed, of ensuring that youth would become productive members of society and leaders for the development of their own community. ASPIRA conveyed in its name the expectation that Puerto Rican youth could succeed if they dared to aspire.

Since its formation, ASPIRA has grown from a small nonprofit agency in New York City to a national association with statewide Associate organizations in Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, including Puerto Rico, and the National Office in Washington, D.C.

Presently, ASPIRA serves over 85,000 students each year in over 400 schools through its core activity, the ASPIRA Clubs. ASPIRA provides leadership training, career and college counseling, financial aid, scholarship assistance, educational advocacy, cultural activities, and most importantly, continuing opportunities to implement community action projects.


Throughout its existence, ASPIRA’s commitment to its initial mission of leadership development has remained unchanged. All programs still aim to help Latino/youth develop their intellectual and leadership potential to achieve educational excellence and make a long-term contribution to improving their own lives and their community but also reaches out to include all non-Latinos. 

ASPIRA Milestone

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ASPIRA of New York was founded


National Office Washington DC was founded ASPIRA of Illinois was founded

ASPIRA of New Jersey was founded


ASPIRA of Pennsylvania was founded ASPIRA of Puerto Rico was founded


ASPIRA Consent Decree* ASPIRA of New York Vs. Board of Education the decree, signed August 29, 1974 established the right of New York Public School students with limited English proficiency to receive bilingual education


ASPIRA of Florida was founded


ASPIRA of Connecticut was founded


1st Annual ASPIRA of New York City Youth Conference (CYC)


Dr. Antonia Pantoja was recognized with Presidential Medal of Honor for her work with ASPIRA


1st Annual ASPIRA of New York Circle of Achievers Award Ceremony


“Memoir of a Visionary: Antonia Pantoja”, Houston: Arte Publico Press, 2002


ASPIRA of Delaware was founded


Journal of the Center for Puertorican Studies published the following paper "ASPIRA in the Sixties and the Coming of Age of the Stateside Puerto Rican Community” Volume XXI, number 1 - Spring 2009 by Louis Nunez, National Executive Director, 1967-1972

ASPIRA of Massachusetts was founded


40th Anniversary ASPIRA Consent Decree


NYC Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Honors ASPIRA of NY, Inc. on December 2, 2016

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