Latino USA

Jimmy Smits / by Maria Hinojosa | May 26, 2011

Jimmy Smits

Jimmy Smits is a Broadway, TV and Movie actor, an Emmy-award winner, an Activist, a father and an “Aspirante.” This last title comes from “ASPIRA,” a nonprofit organization dedicated to Latino Youth founded by Dr. Antonia Pantoja and a group of Puerto Rican community leaders in 1961. The organization has helped over half a million young Latinos, also known as Aspirantes, with career and college counseling, financial aid and other assistance.  Currently 95% of them graduate high school and 92% continue on to college.

Last week ASPIRA celebrated its 50th Anniversary and honored some if its most successful Aspirantes, including Jimmy Smits who was recognized for his on and off screen accomplishments. Smits was born in Brooklyn, NY, moved to Puerto Rico when he was nine and lived there for a few years, became a father at the age of 18 but continued pursuing his dreams and got his Master’s degree from Cornell. Today he is one of the most recognized Latino actors and is a co-founder of another organization dedicated to help Latino youth follow their dreams — the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts (NHFA). Maria Hinojosa sat down with Smits to talk about his career, his activism and how ASPIRA has touched his life.

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