In 1997, our founder Dra. Antonia Pantoja indicated, “Aspira efforts have primarily focused on social services and the acquisition of new skills and knowledge through the formal processes of education. This work was done by organizing the community to identify its problems (economic, health, housing, employment), fight for recognition and representation in the political process, advocacy and struggle against individual and group incidents of institutional racism and discrimination, develop positive identity through the preservation of our culture, language, and learning about our history, and through the development of an informed and committed leadership that would problem solve and advocate for improving the quality of life for our community.
At no point in this process did we, as a community, put a substantial effort into having the community participate in the larger society’s economic life. Nor did we put a major effort into creating economic alternatives that would be more inclusive for our people. Our participation in our own communities’ economic life has been as workers and managers—but not as owners. We never thought of preparing the youth of ASPIRA for the ownership of businesses, financial institutions, industries, and service businesses. ASPIRA concentrated on the preparation of professionals, in all careers, except in the spheres of business, entrepreneurship, and finances that were significantly absent.
The Community Wealth Development Initiative: Financial Education Institute is a major institutional milestone for Aspira. We are committed through this effort to create the next generation of Latino entrepreneurs, to increase homeownership among our families, to generate wealth in our communities, and to develop the organizational capacity not only at ASPIRA but also among all Latino community organizations, aimed to increase our sustainability for the betterment and expansion of our community services. In this effort, we are joined by our strategic partners, who are committed to this endeavor.