[lang_en]On Friday, April 3, Aspira of Illinois celebrated the success, hard work and commitment of its staff and students at the Grand Ballroom of the Navy Pier. The gala event marked four decades of groundbreaking educational and youth development services mainly directed at Chicago’s Puerto Rican and Latina/o community. The gala’s highlights included: a presentation of over $10,000 in scholarship to students; presentation of a $1.6 million check from Wal-Mart for Aspira’s national scholarship fund; and special acknowledgments of distinguished Aspirantes, prominent leaders in the area of business, community, government, culture and education. Aspira of Illinois’ most prestigious award – “The Pitirre Award” – which is presented every decade to a prominent leader of the community that exemplifies Aspira’s mission and its continuous commitment to educational advancement was given to State Senator Iris Martinez. Martinez received the award by calling on the Puerto Rican and Latina/o community to continue the fight for quality education for our community’s youth.
In addition, the Cemi Award (the highest award of Aspira Association nationally) was presented to Congressman Luis V. Gutierrez. Zoraida Sambolin, anchorwoman of NBC5 News, served as the program’s mistress of ceremony. All the awards where presented by José Rodríguez, CEO of Aspira, and Sonia Sanchez, President of the Board of Directors. One of the Highlights of the evening was the presentation of Mirta Ramirez, founder of Aspira of Illinois, who was received with a rousing standing ovation by the more than 600 present.[/lang_en]