Padilla Family Aspirante Fund

Est. 2022 by Frances and John Padilla to support education, and economic mobility and reduce underemployment in the Latine community.

Frances and John Padilla
Frances and John Padilla

When Frances and John Padilla were thinking about what to name the fund they were establishing at The Community Foundation, they knew the word “aspirante” would be part of it.

“Aspirante” in Spanish means one who aspires – who rises high, who turns dreams into actions. “That’s the kind of person or organization we would like to provide resources to,” John said.

When Frances was a teen growing up in the Bronx and John in Brooklyn, they both became part of ASPIRA, an organization created for “Latino youth to aspire to improve their lives through educational excellence, and to better their communities through enlightened leadership.”

ASPIRA became central to their lives when they were teenagers. “ASPIRA shaped us as teenagers and the adults we’ve become,” said John. “ASPIRA was based on the idea that education is the great equalizer, and in our community of New York Puerto Ricans, education was the way to move forward economically, socially and politically. As the first-generation of U.S. born Puerto Ricans, the founders of ASPIRA were looking to us as their future.”

ASPIRA encouraged Latino youth to “educate ourselves, not only in the formal school sense but also through social and political awareness. It was very much an activist organization that developed leaders among its students,” Frances said.

Frances and John met at Wesleyan University where both received undergraduate degrees.

From their earliest beginnings as a couple, John and Frances “believed in giving. Neither of us came from any kind of affluence at all; we both grew up in humble circumstances,” Frances said. “Giving is part of who we are and what we believe is necessary for the kind of change that needs to happen.”

They settled in New Haven, fell in love with the city and the Latine community. In 1994, John became the youngest person appointed to The Community Foundation’s board, eventually becoming Chairman for two terms. During his tenure he worked to expand the board by two seats and broaden its representation

“I worked in the corporate world for 20 years and did well, but was unsatisfied,” John said but what he yearned to do was to create new ways to move people out of poverty and into good jobs. He founded New Paradigms Consulting, LLC, a management consulting firm, and became a nationally recognized expert in workforce development with clients including Yale University, Rockefeller Foundation, LISC, MDRC, and The Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Frances shaped her career around philanthropy, working for the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving and The Community Foundation. She recently retired as President of the Universal Health Care Foundation of Connecticut.

In 2002, John and Frances founded the Progreso Latino Fund, a component fund of The Community Foundation, which has become a vital part of the Latine community in Greater New Haven.

Now, both “in the re-wiring stage,” they feel the time is right to create the Padilla Family Aspirante Fund. The fund will focus on education, economic mobility and underemployment in the Latine community.

“Frances and I both understand that we haven’t gotten where we are by ourselves,” John said. “We had a lot of help as adolescents: financially, morally, spiritually. My mentors instilled in me the idea of giving back and not waiting around to be given to. This fund is another form of our giving back.”

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Padilla Family Aspirante Fund