Extending Learning Time for Disadvantaged Students - Volume 2 Profiles of Promising Practices - 1995

A r c h i v e d  I n f o r m a t i o n

ASPIRA After-School And Summer Programs And Clubs

ASPIRA Association, Inc.
Chicago, Illinois

Key Characteristics


ASPIRA Association, Inc., is a national organization that promotes education and leadership development for Hispanic youth. More than 13,000 students nationally are involved in ASPIRA through after-school and summer programs or clubs. Programs address local needs, including school dropout and teen pregnancy prevention, leadership development, and AIDS awareness. Activities include leadership clubs, counseling services, and tutoring programs in science and mathematics. Because ASPIRA students may be the first in their families to attend college, the program focuses on introducing students to various professions and postsecondary opportunities.

ASPIRA has a national technical assistance office that monitors federal policies, conducts research on the needs of Hispanic youth, and advocates on their behalf. Independent but affiliated state offices are located in New York, New Jersey, Florida, Connecticut, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Puerto Rico. ASPIRA's Chicago program, begun in 1968 and profiled below, provides after-school and summer programs at three schools, targeting math and science education for middle school students. This program's goal is to connect students with enriching academic and social opportunities.

School Context

All schools with ASPIRA programs have a high concentration of Hispanic students and are located in disadvantaged communities; in Illinois, ASPIRA programs are located at schools where at least 20 percent of the students are Hispanic. Most ASPIRA students are in middle school, high school, or college. After-school programs and summer technology institutes for grades 4-12 are in place in Chicago; Bridgeport, Connecticut; and Dade County, Florida.

The Illinois chapter of ASPIRA works closely with Chicago public schools to involve about 780 students in leadership development and community activities. Three schools offer an after-school program in math and science for 120 students, and 600 students in Chicago Public Schools and surrounding districts participate in ASPIRA clubs. ASPIRA also organizes a six-week summer program with fall semester follow-up. More than 80 percent of these students come from families living below the poverty level, and they often are identified by teachers as being academically at risk. Many have limited English proficiency. The ASPIRA programs seek to improve academic achievement and interest in school by introducing students to exciting math, science, and technology topics.

Major Program Features

Implementation Issues

Several ASPIRA leaders cited student mobility as a problem, because staff members make deep commitments to students who then leave the school. Teacher mobility can also be a problem; one school has had four ASPIRA teacher sponsors in as many years. Stimulating parent involvement was a problem during the program's early stages. Many schools send letters to identified students' parents at the beginning of the year requesting that their children participate in ASPIRA; those who return the letters join the program. Word-of-mouth communication among parents whose children have participated also attracts new participants. Some ASPIRA programs have waiting lists.

As one program leader noted, "It is very important to enlist the full support and cooperation of principals and teachers--to get them out of their little boxes and think[ing] creatively." The schools and the ASPIRA organization must become full partners, which includes a financial commitment by the school. In sites where obtaining this level of commitment was difficult, it was frequently because teachers did not fully understand their role under ASPIRA--which is to cultivate leadership among students, rather than to lead students themselves. In these cases, ASPIRA staff returned to the schools to reinforce the importance of teacher involvement and the significance of the teacher sponsors as facilitators, not leaders.

Evidence of Success

Although there has been no systematic, national evaluation of ASPIRA programs, all of the new federally funded programs have an evaluation component built into their implementation plans. In Chicago, the program established a computerized information collection network in early 1994; these findings were available:2

In 1992-93, ASPIRA of Illinois served 1,112 students; 907 stayed in school. Approximately 350 parents and 420 volunteers were involved in the program. There were at least 22 ASPIRA clubs, involving 410 students. Of 410 high school seniors who participated in ASPIRA, 312 were accepted into postsecondary institutions. Twenty-four ASPIRA students graduated from the alternative high school.

In addition, the national ASPIRA headquarters has collected evaluation data showing that 90 percent of ASPIRA participants continue their education in college or postsecondary programs such as technical training, compared with a national average of 45 percent for Hispanic students in general.

2 Some of these statistics on participation are lower than those cited earlier, which are 1993-94 data. Data from 1992-93 have been used to show evidence of success because that school year is the most recent one for which complete figures are available.
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