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ASPIRA promotes Latino education



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Some of the people involved in bringing ASPIRA to Southbridge were, clockwise from right, Pat LoConto, Elsa Rivera, Luz Espino, Fran Fajana, Richard Logan and ASPIRA’s national president Ron Blackburn-Moreno. Gus Steeves. (click for larger version)
October 06, 2009
SOUTHBRIDGE — For the first time since they started coming to town in the 1940s, Latinos have a national organization championing their future.

On Tuesday, members of what locals have known for a few years as CLEE — Citizens for Latino Educational Excellence — announced their affiliation with and formation of a Bay State chapter of ASPIRA, a nonprofit group.

"Almost every Latino leader in business, politics, in every area, has been an 'Aspirante' — in some way affiliated with ASPIRA," said the organization's national president, Ron Blackburn-Moreno. Although it's written in all-capitals, ASPIRA is not an acronym, he added — it's simply a translation of the word "aspire."

Although Southbridge is the smallest community in which ASPIRA has a presence, many of its issues are the same as the cities in which the group usually takes root, Blackburn-Moreno noted. About 20 percent of the population — but nearly half of the student body — is Latino, and that proportion is growing. But Latinos as a group tend to have lower standardized test scores, graduation rates, college rates and more problems in various discipline areas than average, he said.

Latinos face "serious challenges" meeting No Child Left Behind goals, in part because of a "lack of accountability" and common attitudes that "they aren't going to learn, so why spend resources on them," he said.

See Thursday's Southbridge Evening News for complete coverage of community news.

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