Volume 2 Issue 11
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The Director's Corner

Change. When you see this word, do you get worried? Do you get excited? Change can be a ‘blessing and a curse’. Sometimes change means that we’re making progress, and ready to move to the next part of our lives. Sometimes change means we will have to do something that we’re worried we’re not ready for.

ASPIRE is full of change! The youth enrolled in ASPIRE were between the ages of 14 and 17. So many changes are now happening in their lives. Moving from middle school to high school. New teachers. New friends. Getting jobs. Understanding what a boss is and what they do. Learning about benefits and all the rules. Yes, change can be very uncomfortable as youth and parents take risks, like riding a public bus for the first time to get to work!

Change can be an opportunity too! It’s like the bend in the road – what’s around the corner? Change could mean less stress. The youth riding the bus to work could mean the parent doesn’t have to leave work early to give him a ride. A part-time job could mean new clothes or being able to buy Christmas gifts for the family.

As ASPIRE moves forward, all of us - the families and the ASPIRE staff - are trying to see change as an opportunity. And while it can be uncomfortable, even surprising, it’s just possible that it’ll be positive and truly change lives! ASPIRE is about changing lives for the better – improving education, increasing employment and becoming more self-sufficient!

Bring on the change!

Carol Ruddell
ASPIRE Project Director


November 15, 2016

In This Issue:

The Director's Corner

North Dakota
South Dakota

Staff Highlight - Kim York

ASPIRE Website

Follow ASPIRE on Facebook

"Include Us in YOUR Newsletter!"

ASPIRE Partners

Contact Us

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 some 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.


Staff Highlight - Kim York

Kim York

Kim York is an ASPIRE Case Manager located in Polson, Montana. She has a Master’s degree in Social Work and Community Practice and has worked in the field for over 30 years. Kim has been with ASPIRE since November 2014.

Kim and her husband have twin girls, two wonderful son-in-laws, and 4 “perfect” grandchildren. Kim’s daughters were born 6 weeks early and struggled with learning disabilities through their K-12 experience. However, with due diligence from Kim and her husband, both are doing awesome! One daughter is a process engineer for a large hospital, and the other is a reading teacher for Native American students in a Bureau of Indian Education school, which Kim proudly notes, has the most successful program for Native American students in the nation.

Kim’s passion is seeing the “awesomeness’ of each youth she encounters, and guiding them to be all they can be.

Kim York
Case Manager




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 colleague and would like to be on our mailing list, click on the "Subscribe" link to sign up for our newsletter.

You can also view ASPIRE related events in your state by going to your state page, then clicking on the upcoming events link on the menu.

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:

ASPIRE Partners: Utah State Office of Rehabilitation, Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services, and the Office of Public Instruction, Colorado Office of Community Access and Independence, Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, South Dakota Black Hills Special Services Cooperative, North Dakota Center for persons with Disabilities at Minot State University, Arizona Governor's Office for Children, Youth and Families

State Updates:

ASPIRE Arizona would like to welcome Aaron Luckey as the newest Case Manager to join the team. Aaron is working in Flagstaff, helping to cover the Northern Arizona Area. Welcome Aaron.

ASPIRE Arizona staff continues to reach out to the ASPIRE youth and their families, meeting with them, informing them of upcoming training and events, and helping them set and meet goals. To learn more about upcoming events in Arizona, go to www.aspirewest.org.

The ASPIRE Colorado Case Managers are sharing stories about their work with youth and families. This month’s stories come from Becky Kinyon, a Case Manager in Adams County, in Denver Metro area.

One ASPIRE parent shared a wonderful story at our meeting today. She has earned and gained her US Citizenship. She will receive her certificate and join the upcoming Citizenship ceremony. She invited me to join her at this very special occasion. How exciting! She is beyond thrilled! Congratulations!

One of the ASPIRE youth has earned his Academic Letter! He received an award for having a 3.7 GPA and higher during his Freshman year. He is now able to get his Letterman’s Jacket. He states he is very proud of himself, and cannot wait to earn more academic achievements.

ASPIRE Colorado youth and their families are making amazing strides in their education, employment and independent living!

Patience, persistence and guidance go a long way for Case Manager, Debi Cockrell-Gilsoul, who shares the following experience in helping a family find the road to independence for their daughter:

“As the wheelchair passes by, you see and hear a little giggling 16-year old red headed pixy. She is full of life and on her way. It is hard to believe that just four months ago her parents did not want her to attend the self-determination training being offered at the local Independent Living Center. They believed their daughter was not yet mature enough. Plus they didn’t have transportation for her, and they just weren’t comfortable with her going.

Two months ago, I was invited to attend the youth’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP) meeting at the school. Her parents had not been happy with her last couple of IEP’s, and felt as if they were discouraged to speak up. They were very concerned that their daughter could not write her ABC’s. I suggested the youth might benefit from an assistive technology evaluation. As a result, this was written into her IEP and an evaluation is on the horizon.

Today this youth is a Vocational Rehabilitation client in pursuit of employment with T.J. Maxx. Plans are in place for her to ride the bus system to work during school, work a few hours and be transported back to school. This family has been with ASPIRE for a year now, and it is amazing to see all the changes that have already taken place, many just within the last few months! This family is definitely on the road to a more independent life for their daughter!”

North Dakota
ASPIRE North Dakota has been busy this fall! After attending the all ASPIRE Training the first week of October, Case Managers were excited to come back and meet with families, and share many new ideas presented by all of the ASPIRE sites. A highly notable takeaway was the “My Folder of Information of Life Experiences” also known as the MyFile. The MyFile is a record keeping system to help youth become more independent. It is a compact, portable storage system for keeping important records. Each North Dakota ASPIRE youth will have their own! Case managers will provide assistance to families learning to use the MyFile and develop the skills needed for the youth to learn how to protect and keep important/confidential records. Also to celebrate the season, ASPIRE case managers gave pumpkins to each ASPIRE youth.

North Dakota ASPIRE partnered with the Parent Resource for Employment Preparedness in Transition Project (PREPT) and families attended a free workshop to learn about employment first initiatives, quality of life domains, community-based employment resources and employment tips. Each attendee received a portfolio filled with a large variety of employment resources including information on community-based employment agencies. PREPT held workshops across North Dakota and families in the Bismarck, Fargo and Minot regions were able to attend. ASPIRE Financial Literacy trainers were able to connect with their families and set dates for upcoming trainings. Many families also received and completed their 12 month parent/youth surveys.

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

South Dakota
When Austin came in with his mom for the ASPIRE enrollment meeting he was wearing leg braces. He needed assistance from his mom to make the short walk from their car to my office. He sat in the chair and rocked making occasional squeals as his mom went through the enrollment paper work. The part I remember the most is when he was given his portion of the release form, and he ate it. That was almost two years ago. Over the last two years Austin has made many accomplishments.

He became involved in the Strider Bike program, got a Strider bike of his own and participated in the Strider World Games in Rapid City with contestants from several other countries. It was a very hot day and his final lap was completed with his dad carrying him across the finish line. The leg braces have long since gone to the closet. He is now walking three laps unassisted around the indoor track at Rapid City Central High School, where he works with an incredible team of teachers.

Last summer Austin participated in community activities at the Western Resources for Independent Living Center. We worked on riding the bus there, and by the end of summer he was able to take the Dial-A-Ride service by himself. The staff at WRIL loved having him come for the afternoon as he was always smiling and affectionate to everyone he would meet.

At his last IEP meeting he sat attentively taking in all of the conversation, always quick to communicate in his own special way. He is now participating in a volunteer work experience restocking shelves at the Volunteers of America Mommy’s Closet. Austin has made so much progress thanks to his parents who juggle their busy work schedule with one working days and the other working evenings so someone is always available for him. As this young man and his family continue to participate in the ASPIRE interventions I look forward to seeing many more successes in whatever he decides to do.

Barry Gravatt, ASPIRE Case Manager

Benefits Counseling is one of the intervention services provided to ASPIRE youth and families. Understanding various benefits such as Social Security, Medicaid and more can help the youth and families make informed choices about their futures. There may be an unexpected bonus in meeting with a Benefits Specialist. Following is an incident in which a Benefits Specialist helped turn around a young man’s future for the better.

Recently, an ASPIRE young man dropped out of school. His mother tried to encourage him to do online classes, but he wasn’t interested. Last week, he and his mother met with a Benefits Counselor. Without knowing his current educational situation, the Specialist talked with him about the importance of continuing his schooling because it will provide him opportunities to earn more money and become more independent in the future. The Specialist also explained how the work incentives could be of value for him and his family. After hearing this, the young man expressed more enthusiasm about furthering his education. He spoke with more conviction about pursuing a technical degree in welding or diesel mechanics. He is on the waiting list for Vocational Rehabilitation services and will hopefully begin services very soon. Thanks to this Benefits Specialist, everyone is now looking forward to the future, and furthering his education and career goals.

Be a part of the ASPIRE Newsletter

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