Volume 2 Issue 8
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The Director's Corner

It’s hard to believe summer is almost over and school is starting! It’s been a busy summer in ASPIRE and fall is looking to be even more busy. Have you checked out the ASPIRE website lately? http://aspirewest.org ASPIRE is now posting the events being offered to youth and families. You’ll find them on each state’s page. It’s just one more way we communicate within ASPIRE! Thanks to our partners who are sure to share these opportunities, so ASPIRE families can quickly find them.

ASPIRE has a Facebook page facebook.com/aspirewestorg and twitter account @aspirepromise. Posts and tweets support the many areas of ASPIRE. Every day, you’ll find information on education, going to work, finances, parenting, living independently and more. While it’s great information for ASPIRE youth and families, it’s also for everyone. It’s just positive and accurate information.

Social media is one way to communicate within ASPIRE, as well as with the larger community of colleagues and partners. Personal communication is important as well. Meeting with families, phone calls, emails, texts and even good old-fashioned mail are all ways ASPIRE is reaching out to youth and families. With just 25 months left, ASPIRE works hard to regularly talk with youth and families, meeting their immediate needs and working with them to achieve their goals for school and work.

So check out the many ways ASPIRE shares information. It’s for everyone!

Carol Ruddell
ASPIRE Project Director


August 15, 2016

In This Issue:

The Director's Corner

North Dakota
South Dakota

Staff Highlight - Kim Howard

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 Howard

Kim Howard

Kim joined the Colorado ASPIRE team in February of 2016 as the Office Specialist. Prior to ASPIRE, Kim served as a Human Resources Specialist for the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, Clinic Manager for the University of Colorado Cosmetic Clinic, and Medical & Grant Transcriptionist at a variety of healthcare facilities for many years. She has a passion for learning and always up for a challenge. She enjoys empowering individuals to reach their full potential.

A Colorado native, Kim attended Denver Public Schools as well as pursued an Associate’s degree in Medical Transcription/Administration.

Kim and her husband are proud parents of two daughters, one in high school and the other a graduate from Tuskegee University with a Master’s degree in Biology. Learning to be present in the moment, Kim enjoys spending time with friends and family, traveling, and just taking in all the “Mile High” beauty.

Kim Howard
Office Specialist




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:

It’s back to school for Arizona youth! This is an exciting time for ASPIRE youth and their families as they talk with their Case Managers about preparing for school, a new job opportunity, work experience, or just sharing resources. Some discussions may be the workshops and events they attended over the summer. One summer event ASPIRE youth and families attended was the First Annual Transition Institute hosted by Raising Special Kids. The youth and families were given an overview of what to plan for and how to begin a successful transition to adult living. In June, ASPIRE youth and families in Kingman, Lake Havasu, and Bullhead City attended Parent Training and Financial Education Training provided by Raising Special Kids and Ability360. As we all begin to prepare for fall, events and workshops for ASPIRE Arizona, youth and families are posted to the ASPIRE website at www.aspirewest.org. Check it out! See what is going on throughout the state of Arizona!

With the summer coming to a close, and school year quickly approaching, the ASPIRE Colorado Case Managers have shared amazing stories of the summer activities they provided to the youth and families in the project. Cruzita Tafoya, Case Manager in Pueblo shares an example of interagency collaboration and diligent work of the Colorado Case Managers.

“With the help of the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Business Outreach Specialist Jason Crowe, I arranged a tour of one of Pueblo’s Walmart stores. The information/awareness tour was scheduled for July 13th. Three ASPIRE youth, and their parents joined me on this tour.

The tour started in a small conference room (where snacks were provided). We were introduced to all of the department managers. They introduced themselves, told us how long they have worked for Walmart, and provided a brief description of their job duties. After the introductions Sarah, our tour guide, walked us around to the various departments including, security, grocery, cashiers (front end), and pets. In the security department, we were able to see the back room with all of the security cameras and monitors. They explained how they can catch shoplifters by using over 300+ cameras situated throughout the store. They can even zoom the camera to read a text message that someone may be reading or sending! Of all the departments, the youth asked the most questions of the security personnel, and shared afterwards that they liked that department the best. At one point during the tour one of the teens expressed that she would like to work at Walmart in the future. Since then I’ve been working with her on connecting her with the Pueblo Workforce Center Youth Works, who can assist her with a job shadow opportunity”.

ASPIRE Montana Case Managers have been working hard to encourage ASPIRE families to connect with Vocational Rehabilitation. As a result, all ASPIRE families have applied for this valuable resource, opening many opportunities for them to reach education, employment and independent living goals! This summer youth have attended youth camps, token part in job shadow or employment opportunities, and participated in self-determination and financial literacy training.

In addition, ASPIRE Staff participated in their own trainings this summer, including disability rights for families, the referral process for Benefits Counseling, and navigating the Montana Career Information System. The Montana Career Information System is a valuable tool for youth to complete interest assessments and career exploration.

As summer comes to a close and the dawn of a new school year is on the horizon, plans are underway to take part in Individual Education Plan meetings at schools, set new goals for the upcoming year and to inspire ASPIRE youth and families to dream, to act and to achieve!

North Dakota
After a busy summer, APSIRE North Dakota is looking forward to school being in session. Families and Case Managers are excited to establish that routine that comes with school. ASPIRE Case Managers are helping families prepare for the upcoming school year through various activities.

Case Managers are discussing transitions that youth may be experience, such as attending a new school and encouraging them to tour the new school, attend open houses and completing school registrations Case Managers have also discussed important special education transition dates and shared resources for youth with disabilities starting at age 15. Transition resources shared include information regarding starting the transition process, education, guardianship, Vocational Rehabilitation, Social Security and housing. Case Managers provided families with calendars to help them track appointments and important dates. Case Managers visited with youth and families to discuss their upcoming IEPs and offered to attend these meetings if families desired. Case Managers also shared resources and events for getting new clothes and school supplies with families.

ASPIRE Staff attended a Parent Resource for Employment Preparedness Transition (PREPT) workshop to learn about Employment First; the Americans with Disabilities Act; perceptions and outcomes in the workplace; quality of life domains; employment tips and tools; community-based employment resources; positive role modeling and creating a support system for persons with disabilities for integrated employment opportunities in North Dakota. The PREPT project will be presenting to ASPIRE parents and youth who were not able to attend. ASPIRE is also busy scheduling parent trainings, youth self-determination trainings and family financial literacy trainings for the upcoming year.

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

South Dakota
It’s been a busy summer in South Dakota. Tynell Millner, ASPIRE Case Manager, shared this story of two youth and their summer work experience.

Emalynn and Brynne are twins from Parmalee, SD. They are entering their senior year at St. Francis Indian School. Emma competes in cross country and track for the Lady Warriors and Brynne is the student manager.

Through ASPIRE, Brynne and Emma have received services from Vocational Rehabilitation , and are participating in Project Skills. They are currently employed through Project Skills at the Wanbli Waconi Tipi JDC on the Rosebud Indian Reservation. One of their jobs is taking care of the bee hives and extracting honey from them. They are learning new things every day from the bees and are addicted to the fresh honey!

The girls have competed in races throughout the summer. They recently ran in the 3rd Annual Billy Mills Half Marathon where they met Billy Mills. Brynne ran the 5k, and Emma ran the half marathon (13.1 miles)! Earlier this summer they also competed in the Mother Earth Trail Race in Greenwood, SD on June 25th. Emalynn and her dad, Joe, took 1st place in the half marathon relay, and Brynne was the top female finisher in the 5K. The twins and their dad will also be competing in a triathlon relay in August.

Brynne and Emma are looking at colleges, and have decided to attend different schools. This fall they are planning to visit colleges, and make a decision on where they will attend.

You can read more about Emma and Brynne on the ASPIRE website at aspirewest.org/south-dakota/sd-emma-and-brynne

Recently, a single mother with 4 children met with a Benefits Specialist from Utah Work Incentive Planning Services. Initially, the mother was agitated because she was confused and frustrated with having to deal with so many organizations in order to manage benefits. Sound familiar? The Benefits Specialist took time to explain how each organization can help, their procedures and more. The mother calmed down then expressed her concern regarding several related issues.

The mother’s first concern was about funds that a local non-profit organization was holding to pay for the youth’s college education. How would this effect the youth’s benefits? The Specialist determined that funds held by the organization prior to use are not counted as an asset.

The youth is interested in working part time and his mother asked how his earnings might impact his SSI and Medicaid. The Benefits Specialist explained that Social Security has incentives for students to work. The Specialist explained the Student Earned Income Exclusion which allows this youth to meet his work goals without impacting his benefits.

Finally, the mother was scheduled to receive a pay-out from her ex-husband’s divorce settlement. Again, what’s the impact? The Benefits Specialist determined that as long as the funds are taken from a retirement account and deposited directly into a restricted retirement account in the mother’s name, the money would be excluded as an asset.

All in a day’s work. Thank goodness for Benefit Specialists who understand the complications of benefits and how they impact the ASPIRE youth and families.

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.