Dr. Antonia Pantoja, ASPRA’s founder, indicated that all those individuals “touched” by ASPIRA are considered ASPIRANTES. For us, ASPIRA is something more than just an after school club. ASPIRA is a family. All ASPIRANTES are members of the ASPIRA family.
An ASPIRANTE is someone who comes to ASPIRA, not by force, but one who chooses to come. An ASPIRANTE is someone who chooses not to do drugs and uses that motive in a way to help others to make the same decision. An ASPIRANTE is someone who chooses to help their community, not for the community service hours required for graduation, but instead for the joy of helping others. An ASPIRANTE comes to ASPIRA not to be with friends, but rather to be with family. An ASPIRANTE is not limited by the education he or she receives but instead uses that knowledge he or she is given and seeks ways to gain more. An ASPIRANTE does not dwell in the past but instead looks to the future and sees how they will succeed in life. An ASPIRANTE is someone who appreciates their culture and knows that where they came from is just as important as where they are going. An ASPIRANTE is a model community member devoted to its development. Being an ASPIRANTE is a life-long commitment. This life-long commitment is reflected in its motto:
ONCE AN ASPIRANTE, ALWAYS AN ASPIRANTE!
Among the ASPIRA prominent Aspirantes are:
- Fernando Ferrer, former Bronx president, ran for NYC Mayor in 2001 and 2005 unsuccessfully.
- Angelo Falcón, prominent political scientist and President of the National Institute for Latino Policy (formerly the Institute for Puerto Rican Policy).
- Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union.
- Ninfa Segarra, former President of the Board of Education of New York, former Deputy Mayor under Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, is currently a lobbyist with Toñio Burgos & Associates and former President of the National Puerto Rican Coalition in Washington, DC.
- Aida Alvarez, former director of the Small Business Administration under President Bill Clinton.
- Nelson A. Diaz, first Puerto Rican Solicitor General in Philadelphia.
- Jimmy Smits, Puerto Rican actor.
- Luis Guzmán, character actor.
- Dr. Isaura Santiago Santiago (Ph.D., Fordham University), first tenured Puerto Rican woman at Columbia University and first Puerto Rican woman president of Hostos Community College of the City University of New York.
- Digna Sanchez led such organizations as the Puerto Rican Socialist Party (PSP), MADRE, and Learning Leaders in New York City; she also worked at the Puerto Rican Legal Defense Fund, the United Way of New York City, and the Children’s Television Workshop.
- Dr. Jaime “Gus” Rivera, Director of Public Health, State of Delaware.
- Hon. Iris Martinez, Senator, State of Illinois, first Latina in the state Senate.
- Hon. Angel Cruz, Pennsylvania State Representative, first Puertorrican state legislator.
- Hon. Billy Ocasio, former City of Chicago Alderman.