ASPIRA, Inc. of Illinois is a Puerto Rican not-for-profit organization committed to the self-determination of Latinos and other underserved youth through education, leadership development and cultural awareness.
To fulfill our mission, ASPIRA strives to complete the following:
- Establish ASPIRA schools as a model of academic excellence.
- Strengthen and expand educational communities committed to empowerment through leadership development.
- Provide youth with a sense of belonging and pride in their cultural heritage.
- Strengthen and expand current and traditional sources of revenues.
- Diversify funding to include a wider base of foundations, corporations and fee for services.
- Enhance ASPIRA visibility as a means to increase resources.
- Enhance ASPIRA’s leadership role in educational advocacy on behalf of youth and the community.
- Increase ASPIRA’s participation in local, state and national coalitions advocating issues that affect the community.
- Establish the structure for institutional development and continuous improvement.
- Participate in global technology revolution through all internal and external ASPIRA programs.
- Expand the Chicagoland Latino Educational Research Institute (CLERI) to conduct research, development and evaluation.
- Develop new initiatives to address community needs.
- Expand the ASPIRA model beyond Chicagoland.
ASPIRA has developed a unique and highly successful intervention model, a holistic approach known as the ASPIRA Process. The ASPIRA Process is an enrichment/leadership development model based on the conviction that our youth can succeed and that collective efforts can bring about positive change. The ASPIRA Process places an emphasis on developing the potential of youth, who are called “Aspirantes” (Spanish for “those who aspire”). The ASPIRA Process exposes students to the concepts of awareness, analysis and action, defined as:
Awareness: The process of stimulating a sense within youth of their heritage and the social, cultural and political climate that surrounds them.
Analysis: The process of broadening youth’s awareness and knowledge by fostering an atmosphere that promotes critical thinking and allows youth to question the issues and the situations that faces them.
Action: The process of confronting the situations that face our youth by becoming active participants of their community and society through research and social activism.
The ASPIRA Process is taught through ASPIRA Clubs, now established in 33 Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and three ASPIRA campuses. ASPIRA Clubs are the primary vehicle for developing youth leadership, encouraging youth to stay in school and go to college. It provides a positive alternative to gangs and other at-risk behaviors.
Miguel del Valle Youth Development Center
The Youth Development Center is the foundation of ASPIRA, Inc. of Illinois. The purpose of the Youth Development Center is to empower Latino youth by developing and nurturing their leadership, intellectual, cultural and social potential so that they may contribute their skills and dedication to the community. The Center also assists parents to help them effectively guide their children’s education through parenting workshops.
ASPIRA Haugan Middle School (AHMS)
Haugan Middle School opened in September of 2005 to provide a small-school environment that prepares middle school students to meet the challenges for a high school preparatory curriculum and become successful, productive lifelong learners.
ASPIRA Mirta Ramirez Computer Science School (AMRCS)
In August of 2003, ASPIRA opened the Mirta Ramirez Computer Science Charter School MR(cs)2 to bridge the digital divide. MR(cs)2 provides a rigorous and comprehensive high school education focusing on computer science. Students graduate academically prepared to enter and succeed into a program of post-secondary education or obtain meaningful professions.
ASPIRA Early College High School (AECHS)
Early College High School opened in fall 2007 as the third ASPIRA school campus, and with the mission to provide a high-quality secondary education, leading to a high school diploma and dual-enrollment/early college opportunities to Puerto Rican, Latino and other at-risk youth who have faced difficulties in a traditional high school setting.
ASPIRA Antonia Pantoja High School (AAPHS)
Antonia Pantoja High School is a state-certified, diploma-granting school that serves youth between the ages of 17 to 21 who have been officially dropped from the public school system. APHS incorporates a curriculum based on improving basic skills and developing social, personal and career goals.
The Pitirre is the symbol of ASPIRA. A small tropical bird found in Puerto Rico, the pitirre is known for its agility, rapid flight and for its ability to outsmart, tire and defeat much larger birds. ASPIRA believes that the pitirre is a fitting symbol for young Latinos. “Aspirantes” (Spanish for those who aspire) gain the confidence of the pitirre by acquiring knowledge and developing their leadership skills. They can face and overcome seemingly overwhelming odds to become productive adults, returning to their communities the benefits of their skills and leadership abilities. The symbol of the pitirre reinforces ASPIRA’s belief that even the smallest and seemingly powerless can take control of their lives and cause change.