Cherry Blossom festival Newark

Branch Brook Park Newark NJ April 18, 2009


Dr. A Pantoja School #27 Dedication March 31, 2009

Dr. Antonia Pantoja

School #27

Dr. Antonia Pantoja was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico. She studied at the University of Puerto Rico where she obtained a Normal School Diploma in 1942. Upon graduating, she worked as a school teacher for two years in Puerto Rico where she cultivated a profound interest in education and addressing the needs of disadvantaged children.

Dr. Pantoja arrived in the United States in 1944. She lived in New York City where she worked as a welder in a factory. During her years of work in the factory, which involved long hours of hard labor, Dr. Pantoja was subjected to the harsh experience of racism and discrimination against Puerto Ricans. She became an activist in the factory for those who lacked knowledge of labor laws and political power, providing information to other workers about their rights and how to organize a union.

Her most profound contribution to the Puerto Rican community in the United States began in 1958 when she helped create The Puerto Rican Forum, Inc. This action paved the way for the establishment of ASPIRA in 1961. In 1968, ASPIRA became a national organization with associate organizations in Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Puerto Rico, with its National Office in Washington, D.C.

Dr. Pantoja also was instrumental in the creation of the Hispanic Youth Adult Association in 1953, which later became the Puerto Rican Association for Community Affairs (PRACA). In 1970 she wrote a proposal and secured funds to establish the Universidad Boricua and the Puerto Rican Research and Resource Center in Washington, D.C. for which she became Chancellor.

Legendary for her role in the education and leadership development of Puerto Rican Youth in the United State and Puerto Rico, Pantoja's greatest honor came in 1997 when she received the highest honor the nation bestows on a civilian, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

The naming of a school in the City of Elizabeth after a prominent Latin American is very significant. Along with the dedication of School No. 28 in the name of Juan Pablo Duarte and José Julián Martí, the dedication of School No. 27 marks the first time an Elizabeth public school has been named after a person of Latin American descent. According to the 2000 U.S. Census Bureau report, 49.5% of the 120,000 residents of Elizabeth are of Latin American descent. The name of Dr. Pantoja will give many members of the community a legendary societal figure that they can identify closely with through their heritage.

Acting Superintendent of Schools Pablo Muñoz applauds the selection of Dr. Pantoja as the name for School No. 27. "I am very proud, both as a person who grew up in the Elizabeth Public Schools and as a Latino, that one of Elizabeth's public schools will be dedicated in the honor of Dr. Pantoja," said Muñoz. "Her dedication to improving education and the fact that she shares the same heritage with a large representation of this community makes this dedication very exciting."