Volume 1 Issue 11
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The Director's Corner

It's hard to believe ASPIRE has been around for over two years now.  It was nearly three years ago that states came together as a consortium to plan the application for PROMISE. Great thanks to all our many partners in the six states and beyond who have made this possible.  The PROMISE initiative seeks to improve education and employment outcomes for youth with disabilities.  It also seeks to improve the overall self-sufficiency of families and reduce their need for public benefits. 

Will ASPIRE and PROMISE do this by providing additional supports and services to families? Yes, we believe it will.  ASPIRE can show the impact to the federal agencies and influence the decisions that will be made. While that is in the future, it means we are very careful today.  ASPIRE continues to build partnerships to deliver services to the youth and families.  We knew two years ago it would be difficult to ensure we provided the same services and supports in all six states.  But as a research study, this is exactly what we must do.  Thank you to all our partners in each of the states who help us to do this.  Thanks to all the ASPIRE staff who make it happen every day in your communities. 

ASPIRE has enrolled 61% of our target.  We're still enrolling in Arizona, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Utah.  Get enrolled soon!!

Carol Ruddell
ASPIRE Project Director

November 15, 2015

In This Issue:

The Director's Corner

ASPIRE Enrollment Update


North Dakota
South Dakota

Staff Highlight - Jody Dettmer-Johnson
Staff Highlight - Linda Schoon

ASPIRE Website

Follow ASPIRE on Facebook

"Include Us in YOUR Newsletter!"

ASPIRE Partners

Contact Us

State Updates:

ASPIRE Arizona continues to recruit and enroll across the state. 429 Arizona teens have enrolled, putting Arizona at 40% of the 1050 needed by March 2016. Case managers are busy meeting with youth and families as well as with community resources to understand the many services and supports available. ASPIRE Arizona continues to meet with the many American Indian Tribes in Arizona to discuss ASPIRE and seek permission to enroll youth living on their lands.

To learn more about ASPIRE Arizona and to enroll, please call (844)260-2890

ASPIRE Colorado continues working with our ASPIRE Youth and Families to provide case management, self-determination and parent training, financial literacy and benefits counseling.

Several of the ASPIRE students are in their last year of high school and the case managers are assisting them in reaching their post-secondary goals. Case Managers have assisted youth in families in the application process with Colorado Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, college admittance and scholarship awards.

The ASPIRE Colorado State Advisory Committee will be meeting December 10 to continue our discussion on pre-employment transition services for the ASPIRE youth who are eligible for DVR services.

“You have given me hope!” These are the words that were expressed by a grateful parent during a recent enrollment meeting this past month. What a joy it is to know that just that initial meeting brought hope to the family of a youth with a disability! ASPIRE Montana is proud to be working with families across the state, enrolling their teens, getting to know them, sharing resources, establishing goals and, yes, bringing hope for a brighter future.

The staff at ASPIRE Montana are working diligently on recruitment and enrollment, connecting with agencies and schools to share information about ASPIRE, and meeting with ASPIRE youth and families to coordinate services and help them find opportunities and pathways to success. This month ASPIRE Montana staff will be attending the Montana Youth in Transition conference in Great Falls, to share information about ASPIRE with youth with disabilities and families and connect with partner agencies across the state.

To date, ASPIRE Montana has enrolled 87 of its 130 targeted youth and families. This month Montana is recruiting in Yellowstone, Gallatin, Park, Lincoln, Sanders, Mineral and Lake Counties, and will also add Musselshell, Stillwater, Carbon, Dawson, Custer and Silver Bow Counties before the month ends. If you would like more information about ASPIRE Montana, please contact us toll free at (844) 442-3167 or visit our website at www.aspirewest.org. We would love to hear from you!

North Dakota
ASPIRE North Dakota’s current enrollment is 42. We will recruit 8 more youth by March of 2016 to complete our required 50 enrollments. ASPIRE case managers continue to meet with youth and families who are interested in enrolling in ASPIRE. Soon we hope to mail recruitment letters to youth living in communities in north central North Dakota. We have been promoting and sharing information in several North Dakota communities this month. We attended the 2nd Annual North Dakota Autism Conference, a community fair at Standing Rock High School in Fort Yates, as well as having displays in the Minot, Grand Forks and Fargo malls. We also shared information on the Minot State University campus, where our offices are located.

Staff have made use of various opportunities to enhance their skills in order to better meet the needs of ASPIRE youth and parents. Recently we learned more about the services and programs offered through the county social service offices including Medicaid, Child Care Assistance, Heating Assistance, SNAP (food stamps) and others. We learned that it is important for families to contact their county office to learn if they are eligible for these services since each program has unique eligibility requirements. Families who are not eligible for some programs may still be eligible for other opportunities to assist them in meeting the needs of their family. We also attended a two hour ethics training provided by the Minot State University Social Work faculty and attended trainings regarding culture and disability.

The ASPIRE Staff recently attended a workshop provided by Devils Lake Special Education called, “All Kids Can Succeed” presented by Jed Baker. This training included information about working with youth. Baker has many YouTube videos that everyone can access. Visit the website to learn more. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCBDaroUjBr7hTTfPTX8TeYw

The ASPIRE North Dakota Advisory Committee met at the end of October. We discussed the purpose of the Advisory Committee and shared information about current recruitment efforts, enrollment and ASPIRE interventions. Members were interested to learn about the progress ASPIRE North Dakota has made.

As always, please contact ASPIRE North Dakota to learn more, request information or schedule a meeting. We are happy to meet with you! Please contact ASPIRE North Dakota at (800) 233-1737.

South Dakota
ASPIRE South Dakota has held four Self-Determination trainings for youth across the state in three different locations: Sioux Falls, Rapid City, and Porcupine. A total of 14 ASPIRE youth have attended the classes. Three more trainings are planned for the month of November in Rapid City, Brookings, and Sisseton. ASPIRE South Dakota has partnered with South Dakota Parent Connection to offer the parent education and training classes at the same time.

Enrollment for South Dakota ASPIRE is at currently at 107. Enrollments continue in central South Dakota which includes the communities of Huron, Mobridge, Gettysburg, Lemmon, Martin, Bonesteel, Chamberlain, Highmore, Kimball, Faulkton, Ipswich, Tolstoy, Gregory, White River and Winner. If you know families who have youth who may be eligible for ASPIRE, please have them contact ASPIRE at (800) 224-5336.

A question sometimes asked of us is, “So what do ASPIRE case managers do?” The answer in part is that it depends on the youth and his or her situation. Our objective in ASPIRE is to learn what services best help the teen reach school and work related goals. The process to reach these goals, however, can be unique for each person. Therefore, to better understand what case managers do, here are recent examples from the four case managers in Utah.

  • One case manager spent time building rapport with a youth by visiting and discussing ASPIRE activities with her during repeated hospital stays.
  • Another case manager met with an employer to learn and address the challenges the youth was experiencing at work, thereby helping the youth maintain his job.
  • The case manager of a youth recently placed in a group home setting met with the teen to plan and set goals for when he transitions to independent living.
  • Another case manager directed the family of a youth with mobility issues to community resources that will install an elevator at the family’s home. When completed, the youth will have substantially increased independence.

If you’d like to know more about ASPIRE Utah and whether your teen is eligible to participate, call (844)880-9170.

ASPIRE Enrollment Update

As of November 15, 2015, ASPIRE has enrolled 1284 youth and their families in the ASPIRE study.

Enrollment by State

Arizona .............................................429
North Dakota .....................................42
South Dakota ..................................107


Include Us in YOUR Newsletter!

Do you connect with youth and their families through a newsletter, or know of an agency that does? Let us know if you would like information about ASPIRE or PROMISE to include in your newsletter. We will gladly provide you with a brief article and additional information. Simply email us at aspire@aspirewest.org or call 1-844-880-9712.

ASPIRE Website - www.aspirewest.org
The ASPIRE website is a great place to find resources for youth and their families in your area, as well as contact information for all six of the ASPIRE states, and information about ASPIRE and the PROMISE Initiative. If you received this newsletter from a friend or colleafue and would like to be on our mailing list, click on the "Subscribe" link to sign up for our newsletter.

Staff Highlight - Jody Dettmer-Johnson

Cruzita Tafoya

Jody Dettmer-Johnson is a Case Manager with the ASPIRE Colorado team.  She earned her Bachelors of Social Work degree from the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire.  Jody has close to thirty years of experience working with youth and families with a wide range of disabilities in a variety of settings including behavioral group homes, supported employment, special education and adoption.   Two of Jody’s children also have disabilities so she knows first-hand the challenges faced by the youth and families with whom ASPIRE works.  When not spending time with her three children, Jody can be found biking, running, hiking and playing basketball.  On the quieter side, Jody enjoys gardening, photography and crafting.


Jody Dettmer-Johnson
Case Manager

Staff Highlight - Linda Schoon

Barry GravattLinda Schoon is a Case Manager for the Eastern region of South Dakota. Her office is based in the Vocational Rehabilitation office in Sioux Falls. For those of you who not had the pleasure of visiting South Dakota, here are some facts about this region. Sioux Falls is the largest metropolitan city in the state with a population of 164,676 people. The Eastern side of the state encompass sprawling prairies, fertile farmland, reservations and glacial lakes. SD state climate varies from 30 degrees below temperatures to 120 degrees above temperatures and average annual snowfall for Sioux Falls is 44.5 inches.

Linda has lived and worked in Sioux Falls for the past 30 years. She graduated from Augustana College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Social Work and has used that degree to serve children and families in various positions in the community. Prior to starting with the ASPIRE Project, she worked as a Child Guidance Counselor and a Case Manager for Lutheran Social Services and Southeastern Behavioral Health. Linda enjoys the company of her family and travels to a family lake retreat in Minnesota when not working. She has 2 adult children and 5 grandchildren who all reside in South Dakota and her parents who are 87 years old live in their home in nearby Minnesota.

Linda Schoon
Case Manager
linda.schoon@state.sd.us bgravatt@tie.net

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ASPIRE Partners

ASPIRE is excited to partner with the following agencies:

If you would like to be included in our next newsletter, email us at aspire@aspirewest.org or call 1-844-880-9172.