ASPIRE Newsletter April 2015
Volume 1 Issue 4
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The Director's Corner

500 Youth and families are enrolled in ASPIRE! That’s 25% of our target of 2000 youth across ASPIRE. Montana has begun enrollments! So all six states are now actively enrolling youth! The ASPIRE Team is excited to moving forward with enrollments. They are also eager to meet with the ASPIRE youth and families each month to craft goals and work toward achieving their dreams.

Evaluation of the PROMISE initiative in completed by MPR (Mathematica Policy Research). MPR Staff are visiting with three of six ASPIRE states during April and May. The ASPIRE Formative Evaluation team has also been visiting the states. As a research study, it’s great when we all work together to move the project forward both within ASPIRE and across all six PROMISE projects.

This week the entire ASPIRE team will be meeting in Salt Lake City for training. Since ASPIRE does nearly all of our work together via electronic means, we always look forward to meeting in person! Thirteen staff who haven’t joined before will be at this biennial meeting for a grand total of 51!! The week promises to be both fun and informative!

Carol Ruddell
ASPIRE Project Director
April 15,2015

In This Issue:

The Director's Corner

ASPIRE Enrollment Update


North Dakota
South Dakota
Formative Evaluation Team

Staff Highlight - Mary Taylor
Staff Highlight - Sang Hee Kim

ASPIRE Website

"Include Us in YOUR Newsletter!"

ASPIRE Partners

ASPIRE in 3 Minutes

Contact Us

State Updates:

March was an exciting month for ASPIRE Arizona. In addition to welcoming the first day of Spring, the team celebrated first contacts and enrollments. So far, ASPIRE Arizona has enrolled 58 youth and families. At a recent staff meeting, the team shared stories of enrollment successes. Brandi, an enrollment specialist, shared the connection she made with a young man who showed such an enthusiasm over the enrollment meeting. Allyson, a case manager, shared how grateful the parents were for having met her. The newest members of the team in Tucson and Flagstaff continue to attend meetings and promotional events in the northern and southern regions of Arizona. Efforts at connecting and building relationships with the Tribal communities have been positive. As April approaches, the entire ASPIRE Arizona team looks forward to the All ASPIRE meeting in Utah.

With 237 Youth and Families enrolled, ASPIRE Colorado has competed over half of our required 400 enrollments. Our case managers are currently serving youth and families in 12 counties, with more counties served in the upcoming months.

Jody Dettmer-Johnson.......Larimer and Boulder Counties
Cruzita Tafoya...................................................Pueblo County
Becky Kinyon.....................................................Adams County
Jennifer Winders.............................................El Paso County
Aaron Kyser.........................Denver and Arapahoe Counties
Frank Carcellero...................................................Weld County
Susan Burleigh..............................Mesa and Delta Counties
Sarah Keel............................Denver and Jefferson Counties


We held our second State Advisory committee last week. We had productive conversations on how to improve services to youth and families members in Colorado. We are in the final selection process for awarding our contracts for four of our core intervention: Parent Education and Training, Financial Education and Training, Self-Determination and Benefits Counseling. .

The excitement is bursting in Montana as we joined the other consortium states in the commencement of recruitment and enrollment activities. Montana’s first wave of letters was mailed out in late March to families in Lewis & Clark, Jefferson and Broadwater counties. We are pleased with the responses we have received to date from those expressing interest in the ASPIRE study. In addition, Montana is thrilled to announce the hiring of their third Case Manager. Lenny Brown will be working out of the Billings area, covering Eastern Montana.

In other news, Montana held their first ASPIRE State Advisory Committee Meeting on March 20th. The Committee received an update on the progress of the study, and provided valuable feedback and guidance to ASPIRE staff.

Montana also reached out to the Blackfeet Tribal Council during their recent General Council Meeting in early April. ASPIRE received permission from the Tribe to invite eligible enrolled members of the Blackfeet Tribe to participate in the ASPIRE study, pending approval from the Blackfeet Institutional Review Board.

We are excited to begin enrollment and are ready to answer your enrollment questions. Contact us toll free at (844) 442-3167.

North Dakota
During March, ASPIRE ND staff were busy contacting eligible youth and families living in the Grand Forks area (Region 4). In addition, staff visited with teachers, schools personnel and various agencies from north eastern North Dakota to share information about ASPIRE. On March 23rd staff shared information to local agencies at the Grand Forks Job Service office.

In mid-April, ASPIRE North Dakota will be teaming up with ASPIRE South Dakota and letters will be mailed to eligible youth living on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation located in south central North Dakota and north central South Dakota. ASPIRE staff will be following up with phone calls and additional mailings in an effort to reach families. Last week, ASPIRE had the privilege to share information at the Disability Awareness Day at Sitting Bull College located in Fort Yates. Staff will also be reaching out to the schools and community agencies in Standing Rock in an effort to help connect with families.

Also in April, you will have the opportunity to hear about ASPIRE at the Pathfinder Parent Involvement Conference, April 9-11 in Bismarck as well as at an ASPIRE presentation held at Dakota Center for Independent Living, April 9th in Bismarck. Please contact ASPIRE for more information.

There are currently 23 youth enrolled in ASPIRE ND our goal is to enroll 50 youth before March 2016. Please contact us if you would like to request a presentation, meet with staff or request brochures. Please contact us at (800) 233-1737 for information about eligibility for ASPIRE or information about how you can help promote ASPIRE.

South Dakota
Enrollment for the ASPIRE Project in South Dakota is now at 67 youth and families. ASPIRE staff are developing time management strategies as they work with youth in a variety of locations in South Dakota, both urban and rural. The ASPIRE Case Managers continue to learn about resources that are available in their communities so that youth and their families can be made aware of the existing opportunities.

At the end of March, enrollment packets were sent to eligible youth and their families residing on the Pine Ridge Reservation. ASPIRE staff are looking forward to meeting educational staff, community members, families and others during the enrollment process in the Pine Ridge communities.

If you are interested in learning more about ASPIRE or have any questions, please contact us toll free at (800) 224-5336.

Paramount to ASPIRE youth and families’ success are the Utah contractors who provide interventions. We in Utah are fortunate to have such qualified and invested contractors/partners. This past month, procedures to implement these interventions with ASPIRE families were established with the Utah Parent Center, AAA Fair Credit Foundation, Utah Work Incentive Planning Services (UWIPS), and the Utah Independent Living Center.

In April, we have a full calendar starting with a site visit from our colleagues on the ASPIRE Formative Evaluation team. The following week, case managers and the enrollment specialist will contact parents/guardians as we begin the 5th wave (273 potential participants) of recruitment activities. This month, we fully anticipate surpassing the milestone for 50% of our 250 enrollees. In Mid-April, the Utah team will join with ASPIRE teams from all 6 states to participate in several days of training and workshops in Salt Lake City. The latter part of April, MPR (Mathmatica Policy Research) will conduct their onsite evaluation activities with the Utah Team.

Formative Evaluation Team
The ASPIRE Formative Evaluation team has been busy visiting the ASPIRE States to learn how recruitment and enrollment is progressing. During their visits, evaluation team members talk with the ASPIRE Site Coordinator, ASPIRE staff and enrolled ASPIRE families to learn what is going well and what needs improvement. What they learn is used to improve ASPIRE processes. So far, the evaluation team has received some great feedback to help keep all of the ASPIRE States on the right track!

During the next few months, the evaluation team will visit all six ASPIRE states. To date, they have visited South Dakota, Colorado and Utah. The North Dakota site visit is scheduled for May 12th-14th. Site visits in Arizona and Montana will be scheduled in the next few months when they enroll more participants in the ASPIRE project.

ASPIRE Enrollment Update

As of March 15, 2015, ASPIRE has enrolled 518 youth and their families in the ASPIRE study.

Enrollment by State

Arizona .............................................58
North Dakota ....................................23
South Dakota ...................................68

ASPIRE in 3 Minutes:

The ASPIRE Training Staff have put together a 3 minute promotional video explaining the ASPIRE Project.

ASPIRE Website -
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 - Mary Taylor

Douglas Allred

Mary Taylor is the Site Coordinator for ASPIRE Montana. She earned her Bachelors Degree in Business/Computer Information Systems minor from Montana State University – Northern in Havre, MT. While attending college, Mary worked as a tutor and resident counselor for the Upward Bound Program through the Fort Belknap Higher Education Department. This federally funded TRIO Program was designed to serve high school students from low-income families, to help increase the rate at which participants complete secondary education and enroll in and graduate from institutions of postsecondary education.

After graduation from college, Mary went on to work for the State of Montana in Helena, where she has been employed for the past 19 ½ years.  Mary worked for 10 years for the Montana Guaranteed Student Loan Program under the Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education, assisting with the management of scholarships, grants and fee waivers awarded to graduating high school students planning to attend Montana colleges.  Prior to accepting her position with the Department of Public Health and Human Services as the Site Coordinator for ASPIRE, Mary worked for the Montana Department of Commerce in the HOME Investment Partnerships Program (HOME), under the Housing Division.  There she managed grants awarded for low-income housing projects through this federally funded Housing and Urban Development (HUD) program. From ranking applications, monitoring procurement processes and environmental reviews, to evaluation of relocation and Davis Bacon requirements, budget management and rental compliance monitoring, Mary has followed projects through from ground breaking to lease-up.

Mary is a Montana native, born and raised on the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation and an enrolled member of the Gros Ventre Tribe. When shes not working, Mary enjoys spending time with her husband of almost 25 years, Charles, their two children and four cats. Mary enjoys hiking, gardening, interior decorating and sewing.

Mary Taylor
Site Coordinator – ASPIRE Montana

Staff Highlight - Sang Hee Kim

Amy Armstrong

Arizona Site Coordinator, Sang Hee Kim, comes with 10 years of experience in the field of education. Prior to joining ASPIRE, she worked two years as a special education teacher and eight years as a high school special education administrator. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Special Education and Masters in Curriculum and Instruction. Currently, she is in the dissertation phase of her Doctorate in Educational Leadership. Her educational background and passion to engage all youth moved her to actively participate in youth transition, lead and mentor new teachers, and help empower parents. These experiences introduced her to new people and the ideas that have helped to shape the person she is today.

As an Arizona native, Sang Hee enjoys eating at local restaurants, playing tennis, spending time with family and cuddling with her “kids” (also known as, her dogs).

A quote by Oprah Winfrey, “No experience is ever wasted. Everything has meaning” holds true in all aspects of her life. Sang Hee is inspired by her work and experiences with ASPIRE and how it will shape the future for youth and families.

Sang Hee Kim
Site Coordinator - ASPIRE Arizona

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 or call 1-844-880-9172.


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 or call 1-844-880-9712.