Volume 1 Issue 12
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The Director's Corner

The world is watching!  Well perhaps not the whole world, but the White House is watching!  With over $200 million invested in 11 PROMISE states – it’s worth watching!

Last month, the ASPIRE leadership team attended the annual PROMISE meeting in Washington, D.C.  This meeting included representatives from the Department of Education, the Social Security Administration, Health and Human Services and the Department of Labor as well as our colleagues in Arkansas, California, New York, Maryland and Wisconsin.  

While there, the PROMISE project directors were invited to meet with Maria Town, the White House Associate Director of the Office of Public Engagement.  Ms. Town’s duties include engaging the disability community and coordinating engagement among federal agencies.  Prior to joining the White House staff, she was a policy advisor in the Office of Disability Employment Policy at the U.S. Department of Labor.  Her focus was youth employment. 

During the one hour meeting, it was clear that Ms. Town was very familiar with PROMISE and specifically ASPIRE.  She asked about serving youth who live in rural areas and on American Indian reservations, recognizing these challenges within ASPIRE.  She was very enthusiastic and encouraged us to continue our enrollment efforts. She will be following ASPIRE and all the PROMISE projects as we move forward.

So yes, there are many people watching ASPIRE, including the White House.  We all see the possibility of a different and brighter future for young people.  So keep watching!  We can’t wait to show you what we are doing.

Carol Ruddell
ASPIRE Project Director

December 15, 2015

In This Issue:

The Director's Corner

ASPIRE Enrollment Update

ASPIRE 12 Month Surveys

State Updates:
North Dakota
South Dakota

Staff Highlight - Catherine Ipsen
Staff Highlight - Sarah Keel

ASPIRE Website

Follow ASPIRE on Facebook

"Include Us in YOUR Newsletter!"

ASPIRE Partners

Contact Us

State Updates:

ASPIRE Arizona has currently enrolled 474 youth and their families into the ASPIRE project. Case Managers have received additional instruction about the ASPIRE interventions and currently implementing them. Case managers are giving families a sheet of paper with topics for financial education and building financial stability. The families rank what they are most interested in. Scheduled financial education classes will be offered by ABILITY 360. Case managers have also been collecting information for Benefits Counseling, another intervention, offered by ABILITY 360. Our last intervention, Parent Education provided by Raising Special Kids connects parents and guardians with parent training including positive behavior support and IEP training. Case Managers will continue their hard work enrolling youth and their families while simultaneously case managing the youth and their families.

With the Colorado enrollments completed, the ASPIRE Colorado Case Manger’s are assisting the ASPIRE youth and families in identifying career goals. The Case Managers are achieving this by building awareness around employment, setting up informational interviews, job shadows, vocational training and college tours. The ASPIRE Colorado Case Managers are also referring the ASPIRE youth and families for employment services with Division of Vocational Rehabilitation and the local workforce centers. The ASPIRE Colorado Case Managers utilize College in Colorado in identifying career paths, for the youth and families to increase self-sufficiency, increase household income and career advancement.

Peak Parent Center held a Parent Education and Youth Self-Determination trainings for ASPIRE Colorado youth and families last month in Colorado Springs. Peak is schedule to facilitate the next Youth Self-Determination and Parent Education trainings, Saturday, December 12, 2015, 12:00-4:00 pm, Two Roads Charter School; 6980 Pierce St, Arvada, CO 80003.

Ability Connections Colorado continues to provide one-on-one Benefits Counseling to the ASPIRE Colorado youth and families. To learn more about ASPIRE Colorado, call (303) 866-3364.

As the end of another year approaches we tend to look back on the accomplishments we’ve made, the challenges that remain and the plans for moving on to a new start.  ASPIRE Montana began recruitment in late March of this year and to date has enrolled 100 of its 130 targeted youth and families. In addition, we have connected with numerous families, schools, partner agencies and community organizations to work together to accomplish the mission of our project.  This past year ASPIRE Montana signed up youth from 34 cities in Montana, representative of 14 counties across the state.          

In November, Montana received permission from the Northern Cheyenne Tribe to recruit on the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation in southeastern Montana.   In January, Montana will be seeking approval from the Blackfeet Nation Institutional Review Board to recruit on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in northwestern Montana.

The ASPIRE Montana Advisory Committee will be gathering on December 18th for its quarterly meeting to discuss plans for continued success as we work to fill the remaining slots available in our state. In addition, we have been working with our subcontracted organizations to roll out trainings for our ASPIRE Services youth in the coming month.
In December, Montana continues to recruit in Dawson, Custer, Yellowstone, Musselshell, Stillwater, Carbon and Silver Bow County.  Later this month, Montana will be adding Rosebud, Deer Lodge and Fergus counties to the mix.  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 has currently enrolled 86% of the 50 required enrollees. We will recruit 7 more youth by March of 2016 to complete our 50 enrollments. At the end of November, we received written approval from the Turtle Mountain Band of the Chippewa Indians Research Board to begin recruiting eligible tribal members for ASPIRE. We will be completing promotional activities in that area, sending letters to families and making recruitment calls in the next few weeks.

ASPIRE Case Managers met with many special education teachers, parents and other professionals at the 2015 Secondary Transition and Parent Involvement Conference in Bismarck, North Dakota. The ASPIRE booth had many visitors who were interested in learning about the project and took resources back to their schools to share with teachers and eligible youth. At this conference, Case Managers attended various presentations including a presenter with an Autism diagnosis who shared his personal experiences, a training on various apps useful to youth with disabilities and a presentation learning how modern technology can aid youth in their communication with others.

The ASPIRE North Dakota staff also met with the parent training providers who provide training for North Dakota ASPIRE parents and guardians. We discussed strategies to engage parents and to encourage them to attend future trainings. Training topics included transitioning from high school to secondary schools, technical schools and jobs. Parents are learning advocacy skills, local and statewide resources and ways to think creatively about their child’s potential and future.

Case Managers continue to travel across the state meeting with ASPIRE families. Winter weather has thankfully held off so far but we know snow will fall soon. We are now approaching the one year anniversary of supporting families and working together to fulfill their hopes and dreams. As we are building these relationships we also remind families of the positive impact on services for youth and families they are helping to make by participating in this important national research study.

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

South Dakota
ASPIRE South Dakota is getting very close to the enrollment goal of 120; we are currently at 111 enrollments. Only 9 more enrollment slots are available. The staff look forward to completing the enrollments and furthering our work with the ASPIRE youth and families. Enrollments have taken place in 40 cities in South Dakota. The last recruitment and enrollment efforts will take place on the Rosebud Sioux Tribe Reservation, who recently approved recruitments.

Youth and families in the ASPIRE services group are provided with opportunities to attend trainings which include Self Determination classes for youth, Parent Training for the parents and Financial Literacy Classes for the youth and parents. In addition, youth and parents have the opportunity to learn more about the impact employment has on benefits. ASPIRE youth will have the opportunity for a paid employment experience based on their interests and strengths. The Case Manager working with the family will help them to coordinate these opportunities and provide additional resources that are available in their communities.

To learn more about ASPIRE South Dakota, or to enroll in one of the few remaining slots, call (800) 224-5336.

ASPIRE Utah has enrolled 242 out of 250 youth and families. This represents 97% of our goal. So if you or someone you know would like to join ASPIRE, now is the time to contact us at (844) 880-9170. We hope to hear from you soon!

Self-determination training for youth will be available at three new sites in January: Options for Independence and Roads to Independence in Northern Utah, and at Ability 1st Utah in Central Utah. Parents can also receive training on many topics such as the IEP Process, Transition to Adult Services, Budgeting & Savings, and much more. To learn more about these trainings and more, call ASPIRE Utah at (844) 880-9170.

ASPIRE Enrollment Update

As of December 15, 2015, ASPIRE has enrolled 1370 youth and their families in the ASPIRE study.

Enrollment by State

Arizona .............................................474
North Dakota .....................................43
South Dakota ..................................111


ASPIRE 12 Month Surveys

ASPIRE has been enrolling youth and families for over a year!  As families approach their one-year anniversary of working with ASPIRE, case managers will ask ASPIRE parents to take a short, in-person survey.  Youth will also take a survey at this time. Lighthouse Research will call youth to complete their surveys over the phone.  Surveys for both youth and parents are similar to those completed at enrollment. Youth will receive a gift card for completing the phone survey.

It is important for the ASPIRE study that families complete these surveys. ASPIRE staff use responses to see if ASPIRE Services are working. If not enough people take the survey, it is hard to tell whether ASPIRE services are working. If they are not, ASPIRE will make changes to better help youth and families meet their education and employment goals. If families have questions about the 12-month surveys, they can contact their ASPIRE case manager.


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 - Catherine Ipsen

Catherine Ipsen

Catherine Ipsen is a formative evaluator on the APSIRE project. Catherine brings 15 years’ experience conducting research and evaluation related to this role. Her particular research interests focus on rural Vocational Rehabilitation services and how they can be organized to overcome transportation and employment barriers. Catherine also serves as the Associate Director for the Rural Institute on Inclusive Communities (RIIC) at the University of Montana. The Rural Institute mission is to improve the skills, abilities and quality of life of people with disabilities living in rural communities, including their families and those who serve and support them.

Besides sitting in front of a computer, Catherine can be found biking and running around Missoula, Montana. She and her husband have two kids (one in high school and the other in college), two dogs, and one cat.


Catherine Ipsen, Ph.D., M.A.
Formative Evaluator

Staff Highlight - Sarah Keel

Sarah KeelSarah Keel is a case manager for ASPIRE Colorado. She works out of the Denver Metro Office of the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation and covers Denver and Jefferson County. Sarah is originally from Georgia and moved to Alabama where she completed her Bachelor’s in Rehabilitation and Disabilities Studies and a Master’s in Rehabilitation Counseling at Auburn University. Prior to ASPIRE, she was a DVR Intern out of the Metro office. Sarah also has a background in Assistive Technology and Program Research and Evaluation from Auburn.

"I am captivated by Colorado’s scenery the most when I’m skydiving, mountain biking, camping, and/or snowboarding.".

Sarah Keel
Case Manager

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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.