Volume 3 Issue 1
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State Updates:

January 2017 is starting off to be an exciting time for ASPIRE Arizona Youth and their Families. Here’s what’s going on!! ASPIRE Youth and Case Manager, Shelley, learned more about helping in the community! They volunteered to plant, harvest, compost, and build a greenhouse for an urban garden at St. Vincent de Paul in Phoenix. They were very excited to work and proud of their accomplishments.

Marianne, Case Manager in southeastern Arizona has been assisting a parent to apply for services with the Division of Developmental Disability and Long term Care Services for the youth. The young man recently got accepted into both programs and mom is now able to find additional opportunities to help prepare him for his future. Additionally an older sibling was referred to Vocational Rehabilitation services, and is now receiving additional outside support on job skills and additional health services. Prior to working with an ASPIRE Case Manager, the parent was extremely frustrated, and felt she did not have resources to help her children move forward. She now states that she feels less stressed, and the services they are being provided help both her children to be accountable for their goals.

The entire family attended the Arizona Department of Education Transition Conference in August 2016 and learned about Echoing Hope Ranch located near them. They are very excited and later this month they will be touring a local ranch to explore job options for both youth.

What are you interested in? Preparing for IEPs? Healthcare choices? Employment for teens? You’ll find what you want at http://aspirewest.org/arizona! Check it out today!

The ASPIRE Colorado Case Managers are sharing stories about their work with youth and families. This month’s success story comes from Jody Dettmer-Johnson, Case Manager in Larimer and Boulder Counties.

Jackie has been on my caseload for two full years now. The first year and a half, Jackie had been in and out of behavioral health centers for cutting and suicide attempts. She had all but dropped out of school, and was not taking care of her own personal appearance. She had mentors come and go, and was in and out of counseling with the Mental Health Center. There were times that I questioned if she could ever heal enough to live a functional, let alone, a successful, life.

However, her mom and I continued to push forward with Jackie. I was able to get a local arts academy to donate a couple of months of voice lessons to her because she found great healing in music and wanted to be a performer. After the two months were up, the academy decided to keep her on as a student because they saw the positive impact they were making in her life. Jackie’s mom got her into modeling classes, which further boosted her self-esteem and provided avenues for some volunteer experience. At the same time, she started taking classes through an online program with the school district designed for youth who are dealing with similar issues.

This year Jackie was able to get back into a mainstream high school, which was her goal for the past year. She got a part in the school musical and has passed most of her classes. She has made friends and, for the first time, feels invested in her school experience. She also got a part-time job with Wendy’s and balancing the stress of work, school and social life. She has not been admitted to a behavioral health center for close to six months! Jackie’s ultimate goal is to save enough money to be an exchange student in Japan because she is “in love” with that culture! She is participating in the ASPIRE Financial Education and Capability intervention to learn to save for that trip. Jackie’s mom has also participated in the classes, and has been able to pay off her debt. For the first time in her life, she’s looking for a house to purchase!

Jackie’s mom and I know that Jackie will likely continue to struggle but we all now have hope and faith she can lead not only a functional but a successful life! Every day, the ASPIRE Case Managers are making a difference in the lives of Colorado youth with disabilities and their families.

ASPIRE Montana Case Manager, Tisha Harry, shares her experience with one family, whose thoughts of independence for their daughter went from “no way” to “CNA.”

When Becky first started working with ASPIRE she expressed very little hope for her daughter, Tammy, to ever be independent let alone employed. Tammy has high functioning autism and was quick to agree with her mom on these points. This mindset continued through many of the early case management meetings. However, during one particular appointment, Tammy and her mom brought a young, baby who had some special needs, to the meeting with them. Becky was babysitting the fragile infant as a favor to a foster family and Tammy connected with the baby immediately. Throughout that appointment the Case Manager watched as Tammy held and tended to the infant with confident care. Tammy seemed at perfect ease, and never once became anxious or alarmed when the baby got fussy. She prepared a bottle and fed the baby all while talking to the Case Manager. Tammy didn’t skip a beat and as a result the Case Manager began asking Tammy about her child care experience. Tammy admitted that she had very little experience but enjoyed caring for the child very much. Her mom, Becky, agreed that it appeared Tammy had a natural gift. The Case Manager encouraged Tammy and her mom to consider child care or other jobs that included caring for others. They agreed to do so and would report back at their next meeting.

The next month Tammy and her mom returned to their case management appointment with exciting news. Tammy was employed! The foster family also recognized Tammy’s natural ability to work with children with special needs and hired Tammy as their older foster’s sons personal attendant. For 9 hours a week, Tammy attends to this child with paraplegia by helping him get dressed, feeding him, and getting him on the school bus. She loves her work and says she feels confident in her abilities. Through ASPIRE, Tammy has also connected to Vocational Rehabilitation and they are planning to support Tammy to get her CNA certification as soon as she graduates from High School.

North Dakota
In December, ASPIRE North Dakota youth in Minot and their siblings participated in an art workshop at the Taube Museum of Art. The goal of this event was to increase engagement between ASPIRE staff and youth while encouraging community participation. Youth worked very hard on their paintings and all were excited with the outcome, even discussing where they would hang in their homes. While the paintings dried, they enjoyed a light dinner.

Since the art event was so successful, additional events will be held in other areas of the state. Events may include bowling and other community events in the youth’s areas of interest. These activities help to encourage continued involvement of youth and families in case management and other interventions, as well as help build social skills. Also, parents have the opportunity to meet and network.

North Dakota experienced three significant winter storms in December, with many feet of snow. Over the holidays, ASPIRE North Dakota extended support by providing families with a food basket and other needed items such as winter gear. Helping families access supports has been critical during this freezing time.

South Dakota
Tynell Millner shares this story about an ASPIRE South Dakota youth!

Jaylin Koerner is an 8th grader from Huron, SD. Jaylin has had some medical issues recently and has spent quite a bit of time doctors in Minneapolis, MN, Sioux Falls, SD, and at Mayo in Rochester, MN trying to get answers. That has not stopped Jaylin one bit! At the end of his 7th grade year, Jaylin was awarded the Dexter Ravelletter Memorial Award for character. He and his family also had an extremely busy summer. Besides camping and riding his new bike Jaylin got with help from South Dakota Family Support 360! Jaylin and his whole family attended the yearly Agenesis of the Corpus Callosum Conference in Chicago where they learned more about his rare disorder.

Earlier this year, Jaylin’s mom, Tasha, presented at Huron Middle School. She shared the information she had learned with Jaylin’s teachers and classmates, getting the school year off to a good start. Jaylin loves going to school! Even when he’s not feeling well, he’ll tough it out. That’s how much he loves school.

In December 2016, Jaylin visited the new KSFY News TV Station and did a mock weather report. He got right down to business and had a ton of fun! You can see Jaylin’s weather report here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CP-oTyw1UyM

Jaylin loves airplanes and enjoys helping his mom track flights for her clients through her travel agency. Jaylin is also very interested in getting a job and is currently working with Vocational Rehabilitation. Once he turns 16 he plans to get a job through Project Skills. To be ready to work, Jaylin has volunteered through his church, and is currently ready to start volunteering at a local nursing home on the weekends.

The potential benefits of employment for youth cannot be overstated. ASPIRE Utah youth are finding that employment makes a difference in many areas of their lives.

One example is a young man who is not yet 16 years of age. He was exhibiting behavioral challenges both at home and school. His ASPIRE Case Manager helped him apply to Vocational Rehabilitation. At the first appointment with his VR Counselor, this youth stated that he indeed wanted a job. He was most interested in money and art. So his VR Counselor arranged an interview for him at an art studio. He was hired on the spot! He now works every day after school. As a result, his behavior at home and school have notably improved, he is learning to save his money to purchase things he really wants, and he is personally experiencing a sense of independence. For this youth, his family, and his teachers, a part-time job has become a realistic “game changer” for this young man both now and in the future.

January 15, 2017

In This Issue:

The Director's Corner

North Dakota
South Dakota

Staff Highlight - Aaron Luckey

ASPIRE Website

Follow ASPIRE on Facebook

"Include Us in YOUR Newsletter!"

ASPIRE Partners

Contact Us

The Director's Corner

Social Security can be complicated. But there are definitely parts that benefit both youth and adults with disabilities, such as work incentives. Social Security regularly conducts medical reviews. For ASPIRE youth, this will also happen as they turn age 18 to see if they remain eligible for SSI. When a youth loses his or her disability status during this process, they might be eligible for Section 301, a work incentive. To use Section 301, the youth must be in a job training program, or have a vocational plan that leads to employment and being more independent.

Here’s an example recently shared by our colleagues at Wisconsin PROMISE: “Camila just turned 18, and Social Security determined that she doesn’t have a disability which meets the adult disability requirements. She is working with her VR counselor and has an IEP at school. Camila’s plan is to graduate from the community college with a child care certificate. She plans to complete the program in 2 years. If Camila reaches this goal, she will earn too much to be eligible for SSI payments.

Social Security will continue to pay Camila SSI payments while she is engaged and enrolled in an approved vocational plan. Camila is also eligible for the continued Section 301 payments because her wages are expected to be high enough that she wouldn’t be eligible for an SSI payment anyway.”

To learn more about Section 301 with Social Security, speak to your Benefits Counselor, ASPIRE Case Manager or local Social Security office.

Carol Ruddell
ASPIRE Project Director


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 - Aaron Luckey

Aaron Luckey

Aaron is a case manager for the ASPIRE Arizona team. He works out of the Flagstaff Office and covers Northern Arizona. Aaron is originally from Idaho where he graduated with his Bachelor in Journalism from the University of Idaho. He has a background in Wilderness Therapy and Special Education and graduated with his Masters in Social Work from Arizona State University in May 2016. Aaron lives in Flagstaff with his wife, 3-month-old daughter, two dogs, and seven chickens. He enjoys disc golf, hiking, backpacking, movies, audio books and riding his bike. This past summer Aaron rode his bike 180 miles roundtrip to the Grand Canyon and back.

Aaron Luckey
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.

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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

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.