You’re finishing high school, perhaps already enrolled in college. You’re lost among endless deadlines, parental demands, and truly defining who you’re meant to be. You’re not sure where to turn to for help until, that is, you find ASPIRE (Asian Sisters Participating In Reaching Excellence), a Boston-based non-profit dedicated to empowering Asian American high school and college girls. Nellie Hsu Ling, 29, founder and director, launched ASPIRE in 2001 and has spent the last five years leading a dedicated team in developing personal and professional skills of over 350 girls. Ling matches ASPIRE’s participants with other Asian American women in the community, and together they meet regularly to provide a place where the girls are free to discuss any topic of concern. Ling wants these young women to remember that, aside from family or school pressures, there will always be a place to just relax and inwardly focus.
ASPIRE will be hosting the Asian American Women In Leadership Conference at Simmons College (Boston, MA) on April 29th. If you’re interested and would like more information, please click on www.girlsaspire.org/conference.
ASPIRE (Asian Sisters Participating In Reaching Excellence)
Harvard Business School, MBA 2005
Duke University, A.B., Comparative Area Studies Major, Japanese Minor, 1998
Associate Marketing Manager, The Clorox Company – 2005-Present
Senior Brand Planner, Arnold Worldwide – 2000-2003
Associate Consultant, Kaiser Associates – 1999-2000
Government Analyst, American Chamber of Commerce (Taipei, Taiwan) – 1998-1999
About the Non-profit
ASPIRE is a Boston-based non-profit dedicated to empowering Asian American high school and college girls with career development and leadership skills through shared experiences and mentoring. Our programming includes:
Youth Leadership Program (for less privileged high school girls)
Career Leadership Panels
Road to College Workshops
Asian American X Identity Workshops
Most notable milestones / achievements
Upcoming 2006 ASPIRE Asian American Women In Leadership Conference on April 29, 2006 at Simmons College in Boston (www.girlsaspire.org/conference)
Grown our network of participating youth to 350 girls; network of adult volunteers has grown to 150 women
Established Youth Leadership Program (customized leadership development program for less privileged high school girls) in 2005
What’s the niche?
ASPIRE’s primary strength is that all our programs are run by AA women and girls, strengthening the bonds of sisterhood and promoting self-advocacy among all participants. We are the first organization nationally to use cross-generational and female-based programming and mentoring to meet our mission.
What’s the biggest challenge?
Getting people to see beyond the Asian Americans in the highest income and education brackets. Educating people – Asian and non-Asian – to recognize that there are significant numbers of Asian Americans living in poverty, with less than a ninth-grade education and struggling with depression and suicide
What’s in store for the future?
We’re focused on raising sufficient funding to hire an Executive Director. We’ve been volunteer-driven for 5 years now, and in order to ensure growth and sustainability, we plan to move to a staff + volunteer model. We also plan to expand to San Francisco and New York.
Why did you start Aspire?
When I was working in advertising, I helped build “truth” – the anti-teen smoking campaign – which is based on empowering teens with knowledge and information about the manipulations of the tobacco industry. At the same time, I was becoming more aware of the unique challenges that young Asian American girls and women are facing…e.g., highest suicide rates of any ethnicity, highest levels of depression amongst girls in their peer groups — all in addition to the pressures that come with the “model minority myth.” I created ASPIRE to empower young Asian American girls with 1) Mentoring relationships with women from similar cultures and backgrounds and 2) Knowledge about various career options from women that have overcome challenges in their lives and succeeded.
What are your responsibilities?
I founded ASPIRE in 2001 and served as President of the Advisory Group (i.e., working with volunteers to strategize, managing and executing all our youth programming) until 2003. From 2003 to the present, I have served as President of our Board of Directors, working with an amazing team of Directors to fundraise and develop a long-term strategy for ASPIRE.
What do you do professionally outside of ASPIRE?
Currently, I am an Assistant Marketing Manager at The Clorox Company working in the exciting world of bathroom cleaners! Prior to business school, I worked in consulting and advertising. The great thing about my various work experiences is that I’ve been able to use the skills I’ve acquired from the private sector in my work with ASPIRE — anything from building and maintaining a strong brand (e.g., the “ASPIRE” brand) to developing the short- and long-term strategy of our organization to bringing people with various backgrounds and strengths on-board to share and believe in our vision.
Who would you like to be contacted by?
Anybody who shares in our belief that we have the power to impact and shape the lives of future generations of young Asian Americans in a positive way.