The ASPIRA Leadership Development curriculum places a high priority on using a student-centered, participatory project-oriented model. From its inception, its participants’ advice and recommendations have played a critical role in the development and creation of ASPIRA programs and activities. Students in ASPIRA’s Leadership Development Program engage in what we call the ASPIRA Process. ASPIRA uses a club structure as a means for carrying out this process. It involves three concepts: Awareness, Analysis, and Action.
AWARENESS: WHAT DO I KNOW? Awareness is the process of verbalizing or otherwise expressing already held knowledge on a subject matter. Thereby validating and investigating personal perception and awareness – in other words, the development of self-value and value of others.
ANALYSIS: WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW? Through an inquiry-based process for getting, sharing, and digesting information, participants engage in group work and critical thinking. In doing so, students expand their knowledge of themselves and others. Specific emphasis is placed on analyzing culture, race, gender, ethnic background, and history.
ACTION: MAKING IT HAPPEN. Action is the process of putting the knowledge and skills one has acquired to use for the benefit of oneself, one’s family, and one’s community. Through involvement in community service projects developed by the leadership clubs and participation in the citywide ASPIRA Clubs Federation, each participant will have opportunities to assume leadership responsibilities and work cooperatively with a small group to achieve common goals.
By regularly engaging in the ASPIRA Process, Aspirantes develop the skills and the managerial habits that allow them to create, implement, and evaluate action plans at the municipal, community, and/or school level. Aspirantes understand that through the ASPIRA Process—which is essentially a Hegelian dialectic between theory and practice—they develop themselves as community leaders and agents of change.
At first, students may have to make a conscious effort to become aware, analyze, and act. Later, as they mature, gain experience, knowledge, and skills, they automatically apply the process throughout their lives. By helping youth establish pride in their background and their own individuality, they can realize the individual potential within the context of the more complex, larger society. The clubs serve as a vehicle for the development of democratic principles and a commitment to those principles. The youth development curriculum used for the clubs also fosters a climate of caring for others. It provides students the opportunity to learn to take responsibility for themselves and develop a sense of autonomy and self-esteem. It develops motivation and a desire in each participant to change his or her life. The exercise of responsibility propels self-development within the context of community development. Increasing the number of youth who are self-directed, goal-oriented, and committed to community development is the first step in ensuring that we better our community.