News & Stories
New Staff Member: Ray Aponte, Director of Loppet Adventures
September 16, 2019
The Loppet Foundation is pleased to welcome Ray Aponte as the new Director of Loppet Adventures.
Ray Aponte has said that he was initially drawn to the Loppet’s mission to create a shared passion for year-round outdoor adventure in underserved communities because it is something to which he connects deeply. When he first moved to the Midwest from Puerto Rico as a child, Aponte struggled with learning English and sought refuge from schoolwork in extracurricular activities and sports. The Loppet Foundation strives to instill a similar connection in each of the youth members in the Loppet Adventures program.
Aponte said that adventure programming and outdoor experiences, like those offered through the Loppet Foundation, are exactly what urban kids of color need in order to build confidence and be able to see themselves outside societal norms and constraints.
For the past 25 years of his life and career, Aponte has dedicated his existence to the development of youth — preparing them to be successful in this society through a variety of experiences and trusting relationships. While attending University of Wisconsin Whitewater, he started to work with youth groups during his summer vacations. Many people told Aponte that he had a calling and a gift for working with youth. When he soon realized that was true, Aponte decided to become a teacher. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Education. After graduation, he accepted a position with Chicago Youth Centers. As their outdoor leadership specialist, Aponte worked with groups of diverse students on their social, collaborative, and leadership skills by taking them on camping trips to various locations. As an avid skier and lover of the outdoors, Aponte said that he saw tremendous value in connecting kids with nature.
Aponte went back to school to receive his Masters in Art from St. Thomas University. He later accepted a position with Minneapolis Public Schools as a Phy. Ed. teacher in 1986, and then was drawn to leadership opportunities. He became an assistant principal at Northeast Middle School, and he served as a Minneapolis school principal for the past 29 years in high schools, elementary, middle, and K-8 schools.
Aponte is an energetic advocate for environmental education and equity issues, which makes him a perfect fit at the Loppet Foundation. Aponte said that as the Director of Loppet Adventures he looks forward to not only being part of the Loppet team, but also blending together his relationship with Minneapolis Public Schools, his passion for exercise, and the need to connect and advocate for kids on the northside.