ASPIRA in Action: Mentoring, Empowering and Investing in Latino Youth
OCTOBER 23, 2017
BY: CLAIRE DORN, PROGRAM DIRECTOR, ASPIRA INC. OF ILLINOIS
ASPIRA Inc. of Illinois is a Puerto Rican non-profit organization committed to the self-determination of Latino and other underserved youth through educational opportunity, leadership development, and cultural awareness.
In the City of Chicago, many young people of color lack the support and funding that create pathways toward opportunity. ASPIRA mentors play a crucial role by stepping up in their communities to support Latino teens in establishing and achieving personal, academic, and professional goals. Mentors join the ASPIRA Mentoring Program for various reasons. Some want to build positive connections with a younger generation and empower youth to develop as leaders, while others are eager to support first generation youth through their shared identities and experiences. Although mentors come from diverse professional and cultural backgrounds, they are trained to provide meaningful insight and support during critical times in the mentees’ lives.
Jesus, a high school junior, reflects daily on what the ASPIRA mentoring program means to him. He says the answers are always different, but they always have the same meaning: happiness, feeling at home, belonging somewhere you can express your thoughts, and believing there are no barriers to your success. His mentor, Gonzalo, has noticed how much Jesus has developed over the past year. Jesus is now involved in school service projects, works part-time in his school’s IT department, and plans to pursue a career in the engineering field.
Our hybrid mentoring model includes one-on-one mentoring, group mentoring, and tutoring, an approach that allows us to maximize our impact and support over 200 youth in our community. Through consistent daily or weekly mentoring sessions, students have come to view mentoring as a safe space where they feel welcome and comfortable asking for guidance and support. In turn, mentors and tutors leverage each student’s unique strengths to provide individualized support that improves academic performance, prepares the transition to college, explores career options, creates resumes, and develops professional communication skills.
For ASPIRA, Hispanic Heritage Month is a reflection and celebration of our cultures, identities, traditions, accomplishments, and leadership in the Latino community. ASPIRA strives to bring Latinos with diverse and multicultural backgrounds together as one big familia. We are committed to promoting cross-cultural understanding through voicing our different perspectives, sharing our cultural identities, taking pride in where we come from, and learning about the cultures of those around us. This month is about celebrating our accomplishments, our history and continuing to move forward as an organization that invests in and empowers Latino youth everywhere.
Learn more about ASPIRA Inc. of Illinois here.