In 1961, Dr. Antonia Pantoja and a group of Puerto Rican educators and professionals created ASPIRA (the Spanish word for "aspire"), to address the exceedingly high dropout rate and low educational attainment of Puerto Rican youth. They were convinced that the only way to free the Puerto Rican community from poverty and to promote its full development was by focusing on the education of young people and developing their leadership potential, self-esteem, and pride in their cultural heritage. The ASPIRA Association is currently the largest nonprofit organization dedicated to Hispanic education in the United States, with nine (9) national affiliates.
ASPIRA, Inc. of Pennsylvania was formed in 1969 and primarily serves the North Philadelphia community, which has the third-largest Puerto Rican population outside of Puerto Rico. To address the low academic attainment of youth in Philadelphia, ASPIRA began its hallmark Leadership Development program in 1969, which is still active in several schools today.
Fast forward to today ASPIRA, Inc. of Pennsylvania operates a variety of community programs, after school programs, summer camps, and an early childhood educational development program called Pequenos Pasos de ASPIRA. The work of ASPIRA schools as a charter management organization began when ASPIRA founded Eugenio Maria de Hostos charter school in 1998. ASPIRA has since founded two other schools and been given the privilege of managing two more by the School District of Philadelphia totaling the operation of five charter schools.