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Afterschool Professionals Appreciation Week was April 25-29. The event recognizes the hard work and commitment from after-school professionals.

ASPIRA of New York thanks and supports the after-school professionals who make a difference in the lives of young people in their communities. This year, ASPIRA of New York celebrates its hard working employees with Staff Appreciation awards to recognize their passion, dedication, and significant contributions to the youth in our communities.

While all ASPIRA employees are highly valued, these awards highlight individuals that have remained noticeably committed to our mission of “supporting its youth in the pursuit of educational excellence through leadership development activities and programs”. Whether it be through direct interaction with our youth or impactful work, these employees have gone above and beyond in their roles.

Included are narratives about each of this year’s award recipients on behalf of their colleagues.

The "I Am The Mission" award recognizes an employee for personal and professional excellence and goes to a member of our team who exemplifies ASPIRA’s mission, vision and values. This award pays tribute to an employee whose exceptional performance in our after-school program merits special recognition.

Jose Gonzalez exemplifies the ASPIRA mission by empowering and sharing his knowledge with ASPIRAntes, fellow colleagues and school community partners. Whether he’s managing Community Schools, COMPASS, SONYC, 21stCCLC or technology efforts, Jose goes above and beyond in helping all those around him reach their full potential. Jose’s kind spirit is infectious and his skills as a jack of all trades is a constant asset to all those around him. His leadership and guidance of his peers allow him to shine and continue to lift up our Latino community.

As an ASPIRAnte, Vanessa has come full circle in living up to and modeling our triple A process of Awareness, Analysis and Action as the Managing Director of Leadership and College Access Programs. Vanessa’s leadership in developing staff members, exposing ASPIRAntes to vast opportunities and creating new business paths for the organization are invaluable. Vanessa’s deep understanding of the ASPIRA history and mission are felt through all aspects of our Leadership and College Access initiatives, thus allowing a direct connection to Dra. Antonia Pantoja’s legacy for all ASPIRAntes.

Katherine Gomez has been part of ASPIRA for over 7 years. She has gone above and beyond to fulfill ASPIRA’s mission and vision by incorporating and providing high quality programs and events for students, staff members and her community. She has been awarded the DYCD Youth Citizen Conference award for displaying a strong partnership and excellent program outcomes to the community. As an educator and a leader, she has demonstrated a strong desire and passion to impact the lives of students and the community she serves.

This award is presented to a staff member who exhibits strong leadership qualities, who is actively involved in the mentorship and development of others. It means coming to work each day with a passion to make a difference and being a role model to which others can aspire.

Tracy Pringle has been with ASPIRA for more than 23 years. He has been instrumental in carrying out agency wide events such as tournaments in basketball, flag football, and soccer. His leadership efforts in facilitating DYCD's soccer for success tournament provided equipment and uniforms for students in need. His programmatic efforts have provided an outlet for thousands of students as a Coach on and off the court.

Michelle Santos exemplifies true leadership. Michelle always takes the initiative to create innovative programming and activities for not only the students she serves, but the families as well. Michelle works seamlessly with the school administration to provide family engagement activities as well as organizing weekly food distribution for families suffering from food insecurity. She is very passionate about the work she puts forth and the staff and students adore her.

Jennifer Olivar is active in LCAP's mentorship program working one on one with participants. She has boosted morale and helps her coworkers come up with new and creative activities. Jennifer's coworkers always gravitate to her when in need and she consistently shows her dedication and commitment to the mission and participants.

The Youth Impact award salutes the recipient for his or her love, support, direction and instruction that may profoundly impact a young person and helps create a pathway to a bright future.

Priscilla truly cares about the youth she serves. Priscilla is always pushing the envelope to incorporate youth driven activities that provide her students the opportunity to speak out on things that matter to them. She genuinely wants students to be engaged and it shows through her work and events that she holds for them. Students feel a sense of belonging in her program and it shows especially when they do not want to go home at the end of the day.

Felipe Rojas, inspires ASPIRA participants daily through his work as a Social Studies Teacher and as a Basketball Coach. He emphasizes the importance of education and good sportsmanship. His positive outlook creates a warm and welcoming environment which promotes a safe and healthy space for the youth to explore their interests, cultivate relationships, and build their leadership skills.

Over the past 5 years Marilyn Martinez has impacted her students by demonstrating her love and support to each and every student. Marilyn helps her students one on one with academic support and provides fun lessons where they can also gain skills like listening, expressing their opinion and working together as a team. Marilyn communicates with teachers to see how she can better support her students in every aspect. Students feel comfortable speaking and asking for Marilyn’s help and she has developed a strong bond with all of her students.

Making a difference for one is what ASPIRA’s Community Impact award is all about. This award pays tribute to a staff member who has gone above and beyond to create tangible impact in their community and merits special recognition.

Bernie Hernandez exhibits passion and commitment for developing community resources. He was recently recognized for his outstanding efforts in leading one of the most successful Saturday Night Lights programs, as part of the ongoing efforts to decrease youth violence alongside the NYPD. For more than 16 years, Bernie has always given helpful advice, not only for our participants but for our staff members and families.

Dusty Figueroa-Pere has taken on her role as the lead Director with ease and has been fully committed to continuing a successful partnership with the 31 school admin and community as a whole. Dusty is fully embedded in the school community and culture. She continues to challenge herself to raise the bar to incorporate new activities and community partners to enhance her program and strengthen community ties.

Shatae Blount has been part of ASPIRA of New York, Inc. since 2016 as the Assistant Community School Director and has exhibited a strong willingness and leadership skill to coordinate and participate in community wide projects by applying “The ASPIRA Triple A” to give back to the community. She has provided the youth and their families with a wide range of community events geared towards the social emotional learning, educational, social and food and security.

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