Volume 1 Issue 8
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The Director's Corner

Puzzles. Today I’m reminded of jigsaw puzzles. Complex. Challenging. They can be colorful and sometimes tricky.  And the best way to fit all the pieces together is when you have help. 

Less than one month ago we celebrated the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act. This civil rights law has opened many doors since that time. Yet, in many ways what we have today is a puzzle. Services and supports can be hard to find and even harder to keep. Following one set of rules to keep a service, may mean losing another. While services are important and often life-changing, then can also trap people who become afraid of losing them.

ASPIRE seeks to help teens with disabilities and their families have all the pieces they need for their own life puzzle. Some pieces are for school and diplomas.  Some pieces are for job training and a career. Some pieces are about housing and food, medical care and transportation.  ASPIRE begins with helping families figure out what their own puzzle looks like; then supporting them to find the right pieces and learn how to use them.  

The staff in the six ASPIRE states are also learning the pieces to the puzzle too. They are learning about the pieces and how they fit together. Since each family’s puzzle is unique, staff will learn how to sort the pieces and find the ones which best help each youth and family. By working together, the youth and family can move forward to pursue school and work, and be as self-sufficient as possible. 

Carol Ruddell
ASPIRE Project Director

August 15, 2015

In This Issue:

The Director's Corner

ASPIRE Enrollment Update

Youth and Parent Surveys


North Dakota
South Dakota
Formative Evaluation Team

Staff Highlight - Debi Gilsoul
Staff Highlight - Aaron Kyser

ASPIRE Website

Follow ASPIRE on Facebook

"Include Us in YOUR Newsletter!"

ASPIRE Partners

Contact Us

State Updates:

ASPIRE Arizona recruitment and enrollment is on the rise with 273 youth and families enrolled. Even more exciting news! We will officially be recruiting and enrolling throughout the state of Arizona by August 14th, and our case managers are ready to meet and enroll eligible youth and their families in Northern, Central, and Southern Arizona regions.

The ASPIRE Arizona Advisory Committee met on August 12, 2015 and the Committee had the opportunity to hear from other ASPIRE Site Coordinators and the Project Director, Carol Ruddell. Collaborative partnering agencies, Raising Special Kids and Arizona Bridges to Independent Living have begun to receive intervention referrals for Parent Training and Benefits Planning. Financial Education/Capability Trainings will be available in the very near future.

If you are attending the 2015 Arizona Department of Education Transition Conference at the Talking Stick Resort, plan a visit to see Brandi Robertson, Claudia Lopez, Delsey Benally, James Rivera, Marianne Marts, Michelle Frias, and Ramona Meda in action with their presentations. Topics will include: ASPIRE overview, finding opportunities to connect and communicate, relationship building with students, and finding commonalities where you don’t think they assist.

A big thank you to Linda Tasco from Arizona’s Division of Developmental Disabilities and Sara Sembiante from Rehabilitation Services Administration for providing trainings to our case managers!

If you have questions, would like more information, or to schedule an informational ASPIRE presentation, please contact us at (844)260-2890.

The goal for ASPIRE Colorado for the month of August is to enroll our final 20 youth and families into the project. We are recruiting anyone who expressed an interest in our past waves, to enroll before we reach our targeted 400 enrollments.

All of the ASPIRE Colorado staff are excited to complete the recruitment and enrollment stage of the project and begin focusing on case management activities. This month our Case Managers will be outreaching and re-engaging to the local school districts in the areas where our ASPIRE services families reside to begin or resume discussions on ASPIRE services and interventions.

Our ASPIRE services families have had great success in working with our Certified Work Incentive Counselors with Ability Connections Colorado. Our families have learned valuable information regarding their benefits as well as the various work incentives that are available to them and their families.

The month of August lends hint to the dawn of a new season, a new school year, and a new milestone for ASPIRE Montana! With current enrollment at 42, Montana is approximately one-third of the way towards their enrollment goal of 130 youth.

Montana’s fifth group of letters was mailed out this month to youth and families in Flathead County, located in northwest Montana. Another group of letters will be mailed out in late August to eligible youth in Yellowstone County, located in southeastern Montana.

In addition to enrolling families, providing case management services and attending trainings, Montana has been working to get contracts in place with the agencies who will be offering interventions to the ASPIRE services youth and families. Montana also continues to meet with tribes to seek approval to enroll eligible youth on Montana’s Indian Reservations.

Some of the Montana ASPIRE staff had the opportunity to participate in the Montana Youth Leadership Forum, a week long camp held the later part of July at Carroll College in Helena. Approximately 20 youth with disabilities participated in this annual event, which offers additional training to youth to help equip them to become leaders by example. It is a wonderful opportunity and fits well with the goals of the ASPIRE Project.

If you would like more information on ASPIRE Montana, we would love to hear from you. Please contact us toll free at (844) 442-3167.

North Dakota
ASPIRE ND has enrolled 29 youth with the goal of enrolling 50! We are just over half way there! Our largest wave of recruitment letters will be sent to families in the Fargo area in August. ASPIRE staff conducted promotional activities with local providers and schools in the Fargo area. Our newest Case Manager, Ashley Dhuyvetter, will soon join in the recruitment and enrollment efforts as she recently received her security clearance and is close to completing all of her trainings.

Parents and youth from the Bismarck area attended their first Self-Determination and Parent Training. Initial responses after the meeting were positive. All youth came out of the training with smiling faces and parents said they had received some good information. Grand Forks ASPIRE youth and families will have their first training in August and Minot will enter into their second training.

The ASPIRE staff has been busy scheduling trainings with community providers to learn more about eligibility requirements and the process for accessing housing and economic assistance. School will begin soon and we are all looking forward to the routine that it provides and the ability to collaborate with school staff. Please contact ASPIRE North Dakota for more information, (800) 233-1737.

South Dakota
South Dakota ASPIRE has begun recruiting and enrolling eligible youth in the South Central area of South Dakota and the Northern and Southern Hills areas. In July, enrollment efforts were completed on the Pine Ridge and Standing Rock Reservations. Currently there are 86 youth enrolled in South Dakota ASPIRE. We are getting closer to the goal of enrolling 120 youth.

At our July staff meeting, staff members were provided with training on medical issues related to a variety of disabilities by Brooke Lusk, RN. The information will be very helpful as the case managers learn more about the youth on their caseloads and their medical needs.

As the summer comes to a close and school days are near, ASPIRE South Dakota looks forward to what new opportunities are available for youth and parents through the ASPIRE interventions and school events. We look forward to seeing the youth expand on their abilities and aspirations as they make plans for their future as well as helping parents learn how to support their youth in setting life goals.

Beginning in August, recruitment and enrollment activities will expand to include youth residing in Cache and Summit Counties as well as the southern portion of Utah County. We currently stand at 75% of our enrollment target.

Also beginning in August, two of our largest Independent Living Centers will begin offering self-determination training opportunities for youth. Case managers are working diligently to communicate and encourage the youths’ participation in these valuable and timely services. Moreover, case managers continue to inform families of the benefits of applying for vocational rehabilitation services sooner than later.

Understanding ASPIRE services is an educational process that takes time. Fortunately, Project participants are beginning to grasp the tremendous value that ASPIRE resources can offer their families. For more information visit www.aspirewest.org or call ASPIRE Utah at (844) 880-9171 toll free.

ASPIRE Enrollment Update

As of August 15, 2015, ASPIRE has enrolled 1018 youth and their families in the ASPIRE study.

Enrollment by State

Arizona .............................................273
North Dakota .....................................29
South Dakota .....................................86

Youth and Parent Surveys

When a teen starts ASPIRE, he or she completes a survey. The survey covers many topics to learn about the teen’s school, work, and independent living experiences. After one year in the project, ASPIRE teens answer the same survey questions again. Be comparing these answers, staff can learn if ASPIRE services are working as expected.

ASPIRE parents also complete surveys when they start the project, and then one year later. Parent surveys ask questions about how the family supports the teen, and if family members are aware of resources in the community. If answers change over time, this helps show how ASPIRE services are helping the family. If answers do not change, then this may show that ASPIRE services need to be improved or changed.

APSIRE youth and parent surveys are similar to school achievement tests. Teachers use achievement test scores to see if teaching methods are working. ASPIRE staff use youth and parent surveys to figure out if ASPIRE services are working.

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 - Debi Gilsoul

Debi Gilsoul

Debi Gilsoul is a case manager for the ASPIRE Montana team, and also assists with recruitment and enrollment. She works under of the Office Public Instruction (OPI) in Helena for ASPIRE through an agreement with the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services, Disability Employment and Transitions Division. Known affectionately by her fellow ASPIRE Montana cohorts as the “Enrollment Queen,” Debi covers several counties located in northwest Montana, and a few in southwest Montana. She is a native of Montana, born and raised in Kalispell. She recently moved from her hometown to work for ASPIRE. Debi received her bachelor’s degree in English/teaching from the University of Montana. For the last eight years, Debi has been working with children with emotional disorders, and while advocating for these children she found her purpose in life. For the past three years (prior to ASPIRE) she worked in the Kalispell School District in a behavioral classroom.

Debi and her husband are the proud parents of two grown children and have a family dog. In her free time Debi delights in fashioning jewelry and enjoys hiking, biking, and camping while relishing the picturesque skies and beautiful scenery of the great state of Montana.

Debi Gilsoul
Case Manager

Staff Highlight - Aaron Kyser

Aaron KyserAaron Kyser is a case manager for ASPIRE Colorado. He works out of the Denver Metro office of the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation and covers Arapahoe County. Aaron is originally from Durango, Colorado and moved to Denver in 2014 to begin working with ASPIRE families. He has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology. Prior to ASPIRE he worked in youth corrections as a Coach Counselor at the Robert E. Denier Youth Service Center in Durango Colorado. He also worked for La Plata County Department of Human Services benefits eligibility squad.

"I enjoy spending time in the mountains with my dog Loki."

Aaron Kyser
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 on Facebook:

For links to articles and information to help youth and families, follow us on Facebook.


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.