Volume 2 Issue 12
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The Director's Corner

We often think of the month of December as a celebratory time. A friend once told me there are over 25 different holidays, both religious and secular, in November, December and January. While I have not confirmed this, I’m not surprised that this is a busy time of year. People can become overwhelmed with the many things to do, people to see and places to go.

Holidays often provide time to gather together with families and friends and allows for times to connect with our loved ones. Despite the season being a time of joy and celebration, feelings of sadness and stress may build. Some may feel increased financial stress. During holidays, some of us have lost parents, siblings, children or friends, and we may feel an increase in the pain of those losses. Some people may feel they aren’t important, that they have no value. Thoughts of suicide might also surface.

This season, look at yourself. Look at your family, your loved ones. If stress is increasing, make time for fun or exercise – make snow angels, play a game of cards, watch a movie together, go for a walk in the park, do something for others like helping at food bank. Remember to manage your own stress and watch for stress in others. Talk about your feelings. If necessary, call the Suicide Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (English or Spanish). What you choose to do this holiday season can keep you celebrating and looking forward. Happy Holidays to everyone!

Carol Ruddell
ASPIRE Project Director


December 15, 2016

In This Issue:

The Director's Corner

North Dakota
South Dakota

Staff Highlight - Kathy Brook

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 - Kathy Brook

Kathy Brook

Kathleen “Kathy” Brook is the Administrative Assistant for the Montana ASPIRE Project in Helena. Kathy grew up in California but attended college at Montana State University-Bozeman, where she earned her degree in Elementary Education. Kathy taught school in Montana and North Dakota, and worked as a substitute teacher while raising her family. Kathy also worked for the local newspaper. Just prior to her employment with ASPIRE, she worked within Disability Employment and Transitions (the same office that houses the Montana ASPIRE Project) as an administrative assistant, transferring to ASPIRE in August 2014.

Kathy has been married for 40 years and is the mother of four grown children and grandmother to four grandchildren. In her free time she is active in various fraternal organizations and loves spending time with family.

Kathy Brook
Administrative Assistant




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:

On December 3rd Shelley and Ken, ASPIRE Case Managers, along with four ASPIRE youth and their families participated in a volunteer event at St. Vincent de Paul. They were very excited to decorate food boxes with positive messages and images. They also put together bagged lunches for families in need. At the end of the event, a couple of youth were able to tour the facilities. Everyone enjoyed the experience of interacting with other ASPIRE families, while getting to help those in need! Continue to check out ASPIRE Arizona website for upcoming events in Arizona, go to www.aspirewest.org or feel free to call us toll free at (844)260-2890.

The ASPIRE Colorado Case Managers are sharing success stories about their work with youth and families. This month’s success story comes from Sarah Keel, Case Manager in the Denver Metro area

“The youth I had his first try at employment this past summer when he signed up for the Governor's Summer Job Hunt. When his summer employment ended, he was anxious to get another job. He truly loved the feeling of working hard and having his paycheck!

For the last month, this youth has been applying for different jobs at Recreation Centers, grocery stores, restaurants, and anything in between. Two weeks ago, he called to tell me he had an interview with King Sooper's. I met with him two hours before his interview to practice questions. Afterwards, he texted me saying that every mock interview question we had practiced, was asked during the interview.

A week later, this youth texted me to meet him at his school. I was able to swing by during his lunch hour. He told me that he finally landed a job, and could not have done it without my support. This youth starts right before Christmas time and is excited to have some "bread money in his pocket" as he stated.”

ASPIRE Colorado youth are accomplishing great thing with the assistance from their Case Managers.

It is the Holiday Season…a time where families connect and miracles are known to happen! ASPIRE Montana is happy to have connected with all 65 ASPIRE Services families this year. We continue to strengthen these connection through monthly visits.

In addition to monthly meetings, families have had the opportunity to participate in trainings this year offered through ASPIRE and other organizations. Most recently families attended the Montana Youth Transitions conference, where they learned about transition planning, decision making and planning for age 18 Social Security changes, and more. One family reports, “It was an amazing experience! We both learned so much!”

Understanding the changes that occur at age 18 caught the eye of one ASPIRE family recently. They had lost contact with ASPIRE for almost a year due to an unexpected family crisis. After numerous attempts to reconnect with the family, ASPIRE sent a letter to them explaining the importance of understanding the changes when this youth turns age 18 in the coming months. Several information items were included: a checklist of things to consider such as redetermination, transfer of rights, benefits planning and guardianship. This was enough to spark the family’s interest and they immediately contacted ASPIRE to reconnect.

We are eager to offer families the gift of hope for a better tomorrow. ASPIRE Montana wishes all our families and partners a joyous holiday season and a happy new year! For more information on upcoming trainings and resources in Montana, check out the ASPIRE Montana webpage at http://aspirewest.org/montana.

North Dakota
Logan was diagnosed with autism when he was just 18 months old. Now he is almost 15 years old and a sophomore in high school. Logan and his family enrolled in ASPIRE about six months ago. Many positive things have happened in these short six months! His Mother recently married, and Logan’s Stepfather has been a very positive influence on him. He taught Logan to swim - which he loves - and tries new and innovative ways to help Logan be active in the community. From birth to age three, Logan participated in Early Intervention Services in his home and then attended Head Start. It was difficult for Logan to separate from his mom but diligent staff made it happen. Now Logan rides the bus to school by himself.

Logan’s parents were very interested in the resources ASPIRE could provide. They attended Parent Resources for Pre-Employment Training (PREPT). Shortly after this training Logan had his Individualized Education Plan (IEP) meeting where they were able to advocate for his needs. They requested a change from wiping tables in the cafeteria, which he disliked, to delivering papers from the school office to the classrooms, which he enjoys and is more appropriate. The family met with the Benefits Planner several times; she assisted them in navigating the Social Security Administration (SSA) system after Mom and Stepdad married. The ASPIRE financial trainer has been in contact with the family, and they will meet before the end of the year to begin financial and asset building trainings. In just six short months, this ASPIRE family has participate in almost every intervention offered by ASPIRE!

The ASPIRE Case Manager is assisting the family with their current goal to get an industrial swing installed for Logan in the family’s back yard to replace an older, less stable swing. The family has secured funds for the swing and now the team is looking installation funds. Logan loves to swing and he will bundle up even in the cold winter weather and head out to swing!

South Dakota
ASPIRE South Dakota Case Managers, Barry Gravatt and Tynell Millner, hosted a Family Fun & Recognition Night for the families in Western South Dakota. It was a way for ASPIRE families to know how much we appreciate their dedication to ASPIRE and commitment to their future! It was also a night where all the youth in attendance were recognized for their accomplishments they have achieved since enrolling in ASPIRE. Families ate dinner and were able to socialize with one another. Thirty six people from 9 different families attended the event.

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.