Celebrating Our Women: Antonia Pantoja

Featured, History & Politics

Antonia Pantoja (1922-2002), visionary Puerto Rican educator, activist, and early proponent of bilingual education, inspired multiple generations of young people and fought for many of the rights that people take for granted today. Unbowed by obstacles she encountered as a black, Puerto Rican woman, she founded ASPIRA in 1961,  (Spanish for “to aspire”), a non-profit organization that promoted a positive self-image, commitment to community, and education as a value as part of the ASPIRA Process to Puerto Rican and other Latino youth in New York City. ASPIRA now has offices in six states, Puerto Rico and has its headquarters, the ASPIRA Association, in Washington, D.C.. It has provided approximately 50,000 Latino students with career and college counseling, financial aid and other assistance, and is today one of the largest nonprofit agencies in the Latino community. In 1963 Dr. Pantoja directed a project of the Puerto Rican Forum that resulted in the establishment of the Puerto Rican Community Development Project (PRCDP),  to empower Puerto Rican youth, and created other enduring leadership and advocacy organizations in New York and California, across the United States, and in Puerto Rico. Recognized for her achievements in 1996, Dr. Pantoja was awarded the prestigious Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor bestowed upon civilians in the US.

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