AIMS Institute’s Projects & Initiatives


The American Institute for Multicultural Studies, Inc. (AIMS Institute) is a non-profit entity recognized by the federal government as a 501(c)3 nonprofit private organization. Its mission is to train and transform lives via the provision of educational programs and spiritual development.endiciones


The AIMS Institute demonstrates its commitment to its mission by being a practical community resource. Since its founding in 2001, AIMS Institute has endeavored to carry out programs, initiatives, and activities that improve the prospects and quality of life of U.S. diverse communities.

Certificate Programs  

The Institute’s Certificate Programs offer 50 hours of intensive training by experts in the target field with a value of 3.0 college credit hours. 

Instituto Bíblico La Gran Comisión – desarrolla el potencial de cada estudiante para que se cumpla el propósito de Dios en su vida. Classes: Septiembre 2022 en Paterson, NJ. 

Youth Leadership Mentoring Program – A statewide 10-month youth leadership development program to provide leadership development to youth between the ages of 14 to 17 through “hands-on” experiences. 

The Office Youth Professional Mentoring Program – A statewide youth professional mentoring aiming to provide job readiness to youth between the ages of 14 to 17 through basic office/job interview/computer use instruction; and 40 hours of professional mentoring, where participants’ shadow’ a mentor in their selected field.

Leadership Academy – A statewide ten-month leadership program to identify and prepare local leaders to serve society holistically.

Pastoral Care: A ten-month certificate program for clergy and religious leaders intended to empower them with the relevant skills in counseling and crisis intervention. 

The Business Bridge & Incubator – A Certificate in Entrepreneurship program (Low-Income Fast Track). This 6-week business plan boot camp is geared to help participants fine-tune their business plan and prepare for the incubator, which provides a complete array of management support and business services.

We The Legislature: A Mock Legislature simulation activity for high school students and an opportunity to experience what it’s like to be part of the parliamentary process. 

We The Judiciary: A Mock Courtroom simulation activity for high school students and an opportunity to experience what it’s like to be part of the judicial process. 

Programmatic Initiatives

FAMILIA – Families Accessing Multiple Initiatives for Long-Term Improvement & Advance. The Institute offers a variety of conferences, interactive group workshops, and specialized instruction by professionals in mental health. 

Raices – A Cultural Awareness Program – The Institute believes that the essence of any culture is its ability to move into the future while retaining its traditions, history, and uniqueness. RAICES explores the depth and breadth of diverse populations as integral parts of America’s multi-cultural roots.  

Acción Juvenil – is a statewide college student support organization with three objectives: to increase the college enrollment of diverse students, serve as a support network for the retention of college students, and provide college orientation for parents. 

Speakers Bureau: The Institute’s Speakers Bureau brings audiences quality speakers and experts whose progressive ideas are changing our society and our world.  

Tu Cuentas! Naturalization Project – Assists those in need in the Naturalization process through all steps of the process, including citizenship application, Family Petitions, Self-Petitioning, Political Asylum Cases, Cancellation of removal orders, Correct legal explanations for people seeking advice (deportation, filing, students’ rights, marriage and divorce rules, etc.), and Employment authorization and work permit extensions.

FILPFinancial Literacy Project – Assisting small businesses and investors in their quest to participate fully in support programs that enhance their endeavors. The project offers workshops on personal investments, diversifying short and long-term investments, IRA’s, deferred compensation plans, how to start a business, keeping records in order, seeking small business loans to expand your business, and advertising.

Health Professionals Workshop: Annual gathering of representatives of over 40 health professional organizations who consider health issues affecting diverse communities. The gathering includes plans to educate and offer services to those in need. 

Research Documentaries & Publications

The Institute conducts studies of social & population trends shaping the composition of institutions of learning, legislature, and business landscape. Design and develop informational, educational, and documentary tools for publication and use by advocacy and learning institutions.

My Family’s Origin: Indigenous, Spaniard and African / El Orígen de mi Familia: Indígena, Español y Africano Paperback – June 18, 2022 

by  Dr. María Teresa Montilla  (Author), Néstor Montilla, Ph.D.  (Editor)

The book is an account of Jimenez-Pena family generations told in tandem with stages of socio-economic and political development of the Dominican Republic from 1492 to 1970. It depicts the women and men who lived that history and reflects on a contemporaneous generation of women and men who are a testament to that history through their last names, physical features, character and spirit.

Los Panfleteros de Santiago (Santiago’s Pamphleteers) – A 150 pg. book and 57 minute-documentary about 32 youngsters who rebelled against the Regime of Dictator Rafael Leonidas Trujillo in 1959. They were captured, tortured, and dismembered for a cause – an accessible and inclusive society – that is still in the making in the Dominican Republic. Researched and produced by María Teresa and Néstor Montilla, Sr.

Jewish Refugees in Sosúa researched and produced by Néstor Montilla, Sr.- A 15 minute-documentary about the story of the first persecuted Jews who were welcomed, protected, and embraced in the Dominican Republic in the late 1930s. Today, thousands worldwide can trace their family heritage to the Jews of Sosua.

Jewish Dominican Generations by Néstor Montillas, Sr., is an original English and Spanish subtitled short documentary depicting the story of Herbert Katz, a young Jewish Dominican man. Katz is proud to be a second-generation descendant of the persecuted Jews welcomed, protected, and embraced in the Dominican Republic in the late 1930s. Original 2015 documentary by The Common Roots Project, BABYLION Production LLC, and The Institute for Latino Studies. 

African-Americans in Samaná: A 22 minute-documentary about the untold story of thousands of freed US slaves who settled in Hispaniola in 1824. Researched and produced by Néstor Montilla, Ph.D.

Los Cocolos Dominicanos / Dominican Cocolos

This 15 minute-documentary depicts Dominicans of Afro-Caribbean descent who are referred to as Cocolos in the Dominican Republic. The term “Cocolo” is analyzed by well-known scholars including Rafael Nuñez- Cedeño, Ph.D., Irma Nicasio, Ph.D., Professor Ana Ofelia Rodriguez, and writer Milton Stanley. Exclusive interviews with the late Donald -Daniel- Henderson, aka Linda, and Juan Felipe Lenis Simon are included.

Los Panfleteros de Santiago

Los Panfleteros de Santiago es un documental cinematográfico original que relata la historia de valentía y heroísmo de 32 jóvenes rebeldes que ejerciendo derecho a expresión, desafiaron la cruel tiranía del dictador Rafael Leonidas Trujillo distribuyendo un panfleto hiriente y de oposición, hecho a mano. El documental es una producción original del New Jersey Institute For Latino Studies, La Conference on Dominican Affairs (CODA) y el Common Roots Project. Basado en los escritos del Dr. Ramón Antonio Veras (Negro Veras) e investigado, escrito y producido por Néstor y María Teresa Montilla, Directora del Institute for Latino Studies, Los Panfleteros de Santiago presenta material de archivos nunca antes vistos e incluye conmovedoras entrevistas con sobrevivientes y testigos de la tortura y ejecución de 27 jóvenes panfleteros de los barrios de Santiago, República Dominicana.

Los Premios Ilustres  The Illustrious Awards

The Illustrious Awards Ceremony, a signature initiative of The Institute for Latino Studies, documents and highlights the contributions of Tri-State Area Latinos to the advancement of the United States of America and the world. The contributions of Latino icons is video-featured and honored in a professionally produced formal ceremony and Collectible Tribute Journal.

Jewish Dominican Generations 

JEWISH DOMINICAN GENERATIONS by Nestor Montilla, Sr. depicts the first and second generation of persecuted Jews who were welcomed, protected and embraced in the Dominican Republic in the late 1930s. This short documentary is a followed up of JEWISH REFUGEES IN SOSUA by Nestor Montilla, Sr.


Featuring Some of the Honorees to Receive the Illustrious Awards 2017

Click here or on the following image to watch video featuring some of the honorees to receive the Illustrious Awards on Saturday, September 23, 2017 at 6pm at Fairleigh Dickinson University – Petrocelli College, 150 Kotte Place, Hackensack, NJ 07601.

Featured: Edwin Melendez, PhD., Director of the Center for Puerto Rican Studies, Ida Castro, Esq., Vice President for Geisinger CMLTH School of Medicine, Hon. Rolando Acosta, Presiding Justice, New York State Supreme Court Appellate Division First Department, Carlos Fernandez, PhD., Center for Latino Arts and Culture, Esmeralda Santiago, Writer, Felipe Luciano, Communicator, Paul Perez, US Veteran & Director of the National Science Foundation, Omar Feliciano, Head Coach of  St. Benedict’s Preparatory School, Juan Villar, Principal, and Tony Mechara, Chairman Emeritus El Museo del Barrio.

RSVP & more information, please visit:

The Illustrious Awards is a signature initiative of The Institute for Latino Studies, dedicated to quality research for effective advocacy.

You are cordially invited to submit nominations for the Annual Illustrious Awards slated to take place on Saturday, September 23, 2017.

The Institute for Latino Studies’ projects & initiatives include: The Latino Leadership Academy (LALEA), The Illustrious Awards and the New Jersey Conference on Dominican Affairs (CODA).

The Annual New Jersey Conference on Dominican Affairs is hosted the second Sunday of February. The 17th Annual Conference was held on Sunday, February 12, 2017 at Rutgers School of Law in Newark, NJ. Keynote speaker: Silvio Torres-Saillant, Ph.d. To watch his speech visit:


The Latino Leadership Academy, an intense 10-month course to train and develop emerging leaders that they may serve the community in a more holistic and independent manner. Participants in The Academy are selected based on their professional and community involvement background, as well as their commitment to submit to the rigors of intense and demanding leadership development training. The program meets on the second Saturday of the month, beginning on Saturday, June 11, 2016.
Illustrious as of June 5

The Illustrious Awards Ceremony, a signature initiative of The Institute for Latino Studies, documents and highlights the contributions of Tri-State Area Latinos to the advancement of the United States of America. The contributions of Latino icons is video-featured and honored in a professionally produced formal ceremony and Collectible Tribute Journal.

New Jersey Conference on Dominican Affairs CODA


CODA logo

The concept of the Conference on Dominican Affairs (CODA) emerged in August 2000, in a historical gathering of over forty Dominican leaders at the Paterson Museum.

Following five months of followed-up meetings held throughout the state, where the educational, economic, legal, social and political status of the more than 200,000 Dominicans in New Jersey were discussed, it was decided on that summer afternoon that it was necessary to address the urgent reality of Dominicans residing in this state, in a “group conversation” / “meeting of the minds” setting. At the recommendation of community leader Lucilo Santos and other leaders, a steering committee, led by Dr. Maria Teresa Montilla, was appointed to organize the first New Jersey State Conference on Dominican Affairs.

This effort consisted of two plenary sessions and ten workshops moderated by experts in a variety of fields. It gathered 500 leaders from throughout the state, and presented a powerhouse of philosophers, teachers,intellectuals and public personalities as panelists, speakers and participants.

Embracing the overall theme “Building Our National Agenda,” the conference included workshops and symposia addressing education, immigration reform, community empowerment and economic development, Inter-ethnic Relations, The Role of Civic-Cultural Organizations, among other topics. The attendees included representatives from cities with large Dominican populations including, Newark, Paterson, Passaic, Union City, Jersey City, Perth Amboy, North Bergen, West New York, Camden, Trenton, Atlantic City, New Brunswick, and Hackensack.

The Conference marked the beginning of a unique and positive effort to provide a forum to identify and develop a state agenda designed to unite Dominican-Americans behind a common goal. Faced with many challenges, conference participants undertook to build a strategy to address the many important issues that affect the Dominican-American community in New Jersey.

We left that conference feeling face to face with not only the challenges the Dominican community confronts in its journey toward empowerment, but with a deep sense of commitment and ironclad determination to design our own role in this society.

The initiatives and projects resulting from the conferences assure us we are on the right path.

The Conference, under the auspices of The Institute For Latino Studies, Research, & Development, Inc. was established as a non-partisan, non-profit entity based in New Jersey, obtaining Federal exempt status.

Since its inception:

The Institute for Latino Studies, Research & Development has successfully organized sixteen conferences with the partnership of Rutgers University School of Law and corporate sponsors.

It has identified the need to continue making a state presence to ensure that our community’s voice and agenda are heard and responded to at all levels of government.

It conducted, in partnership with The Dominican Studies Institute of the City College of New York, the first comprehensive demographic study of Dominicans in New Jersey.

It has proudly celebrated our accomplishments, and rejoiced by the many Dominican leaders who, through political success have expanded the pool of distinguished elected and appointed officials. At present, there are several Dominican elected officials, elected commissioners, and over thirty officials appointed to various state and local boards and agencies.

In collaboration with The National Council of La Raza, it has implemented a Community Leaders Training Program, which seeks to prepare our leaders to serve the community in a more holistic manner.

It founded Acción Juvenil Latina (AJL), a youth organization with the objective to recruit, encourage and nurture Latino High School Students to attend college.

It spearheaded and curated at The Newark Public Library, New Jersey Dominicans: A Community on the Move, the first Dominican history exhibit in the state of New Jersey.

It birthed The Dominican American Council, the statewide political education and participation mechanism of New Jersey Dominicans.

In collaboration with the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs, it implements Tú Cuentas!, a naturalization and voter education project. Since its inception, Tú Cuentas! has registered thousands of new voters in the state.

CODA functions year-round with a range of activities, including a continuous voter registration drive in to cities in NJ. At its annual summit, CODA has established five main workshops:

1. The Political Collaboration Project – A working committee to bring together representatives of the major Dominican Political parties to work on agreed upon areas of collaboration in support of New Jersey Dominicans’ efforts on political representation.

2. Education Professionals – Latino teachers explore the causes and outline solutions to the high drop out rate of Latino students. Three areas of concern are addressed: Parental Involvement, Leadership Programs, and Advanced Degrees for teachers.

3. Health Professionals and The Community – Health professionals representing over 30 medical organizations in the tri-state area conduct orientation courses and workshops in degree accreditation and community involvement. Health Fairs providing medical services to individuals, who would otherwise have difficulty obtaining these services, are held in targeted cities.

4. A Women’s Initiative to address women’s unique empowerment needs and contributions. Such needs and contributions are addressed through personal and professional development follow up seminars.

5. Action Juvenil Latina (AJL) – A youth organization to channel and harvest the developing leadership abilities of college and high school students.

As we celebrate our annual conference this year with the generous support of UNIVISION, and other local sponsors, we look with satisfaction at what we have accomplished over the past fourteen years and with a sense of mission at what is yet to be accomplished.

This is the 15th Anniversary of the Conference on Dominican Affairs at Rutgers University’s Center for Law & Justice located at 123 Washington Street Newark, NJ.

Along the past seventeen years, CODA has paved the way for many new leaders and professionals to emerge as committed advocates for the socio-economic and political advancement of the state’s Hispanic diverse communities.

Every year, they come back under one roof to use CODA as a forum of analysis, planning and action. The list of leaders who have spoken and actively participated at CODA along the past 16 years is very long. Some include: Dominican Republic President Leonel Fernandez Reyna, DR President Hipolito Mejia, US Congressman Luis V. Gutierrez, US Senator Robert Menendez, New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine, NJ Governor Chris Christie, Dr. Nancy Alvarez, RI State Senator Juan Pichardo, Civil Rights Leader Martin Perez, Esq., President of the Latino Leadership Alliance of New Jersey, and the only Latino serving at Rutgers University Board of Governors, Dr. Hugo M. Morales, Trustee of The City University of New York, NYC Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, NYC Councilwoman Julissa Ferreiras, former NYC Councilwoman Daiana Reyna, former NYS Assemblyman Guillermo Linares, Dr. Ramona Hernandez, Executive Director of the CUNY Dominican Studies Institute, Dr. Silvio Torres-Saillant, Paterson Councilman Julio Tavarez, Paterson Councilman Rigo Rodriguez, PA Allentown Councilman Julio Guridy, MA Lawrence Councilman Kendrys Vasquez, Councilman and Freeholder Tilo Rivas, Councilwoman Fiordaliza Frias, Zenaida Mendez, Rosita Romero, Jimmy Zorrilla, Legislator in Puerto Rico, Claribel Martinez-Marmolejos, first Dominican-American ever elected to public office in Puerto Rico, Journalists Alicia Ortega and Nuria Piera, the Honorable Kay Palacios, one of the first two Dominicans ever elected to public office in the United States, NYS Senator Adriano Espaillat, RI State Representative Grace Diaz, Professor Alejandro Benjamin, Dr. Carlos Lugo, Dr. Aritmedes Restituyo, former presidents of the Dominican American National Roundtable Victor Capellan, Cid Wilson, Dr. Nestor Montilla, Ana Garcia Reyes, Francesca Pena…and dozens of other leaders. The complete list of elected officials, leaders, experts, volunteers and CODA coordinators will be published via

You are invited and welcome to join us to celebrate CODA’s 17th Anniversary: Claiming Our Legacy / Afirmando Nuestro Legado.