This compelling autobiography traces the trajectory of the groundbreaking Puerto Rican leader Antonia Pantoja, from her early years as a struggling school teacher in Puerto Rico to her receiving the prestigious Medal of Freedom at the White House in Washington, D.C.
A visionary leader and architect of many institutions, Pantoja’s memoir is filled with experiences of her life as a factory worker, lamp designer, city government worker to acclaimed social worker and principal engineer of the most enduring Puerto Rican organizations in New York City. During this time, she learned English, received advanced academic degrees from Columbia University and a Ph.D. from the Union of Experimenting Colleges and Universities in Yellow Springs, Ohio in 1973.
Pantoja’s inner drive and profound belief in the ability of human beings to alter their conditions propelled her to create institutional responses to the educational, economic and political barriers confronting Puerto Ricans. Her activism touched all levels of community action from voter registration to community economic development and empowerment through education. In 1961, her transformational leadership and dedication to nurturing youth leadership culminated in the creation of ASPIRA, the only national non-profit organization devoted solely to the education and leadership development of Puerto Rican youth. Today, ASPIRA maintains offices in Puerto Rico, Washington, D.C. and six states of the U.S., serving Puerto Rican and Latina / Latino youth. Her ideals and dedication endure fifty years later.
A host of politicians, community leaders, business persons, artists, health professionals and recognized educators populate Pantoja’s story and clearly reflect back her values of self-esteem, clarity of vision and giving back to their communities.