Volume 3 Issue 11

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State Updates:

Feed the Children October was an eventful month for ASPIRE in Arizona! We were excited to welcome two new Case Managers, Courtney Calhoun and Tommi Perez, to the ASPIRE Arizona team. The Team also conducted a variety of volunteer events for the “ASPIRE Gives Back” Month. These included partnering with St. Mary’s Food Bank and Feed my Starving Children to provide nutrition to those who need it most in our community, as well as worldwide. ASPIRE youth also painted “ladybug rocks” for a senior center and patriotic wind chimes to honor Veterans. Everyone expressed that these were rewarding experiences, as well as being a lot of fun!

AJ ASPIRE Colorado Case Manager, Cruzita Tafoya would like to share a story of a youth from Pueblo Colorado.

Earlier this summer, I spoke to A.J. about the Pre-Employment Youth Transition Services offered through The Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, and by August 10, he began his situational assessment at Pizza Ranch. In September, the DVR counselor notified me that Pizza Ranch would provide a paid work experience. On September 27, A.J. met with the DVR counselor and signed the paperwork so he could begin earning a paycheck. He also asked if there was funding available for non-skid shoes and a couple of pairs of jeans. ASPIRE was able to assist with that purchase in anticipation of his first day of work on September 29.

A.J. likes his paid work experience and reports that he has a good working relationship with the owner Bambi. He believes her to be supportive, and allows him to adjust his work hours so that he can get home with enough time to do his homework. He shared he has learned how to stock the products that go on the pizzas, and how to cut a pizza. A.J. makes the dessert pizzas, brings pizzas to the customers and buffet, and can complete the check list of items for the buffet tables. Since he began, A.J. has earned two paychecks and plans to put money aside into a saving is account.

Miranda Ferganchick, A.J.’s DVR Counselor has comments about A.J.’s success too. A.J. completed a situational assessment at Pizza Ranch and the owner requested that he stay on as a busser and complete a paid work experience. A.J. is thrilled to be able to stay because he really enjoyed the atmosphere and the people. He has completed about half of his 160-hour paid work experience, and jokes that he is getting tired of eating pizza. He spends most of his shifts bussing tables and running pizzas to the buffet, but he has begun training to learn how to make the pizzas. He has proven to be a reliable and valuable employee, and the supervisors have only great things to say about him.

Cruzita reports that it is wonderful to work with A.J. He has accomplished many goals, beginning with getting a work permit and his state ID. A.J. has many skills he can add to his resume, such as volunteering at the state fair, playing football, completing a situational assessment, and now participating in a paid to work experience. He is a junior at HOPE Online Alpha Learning Academy, which is a new school for him this year and is the oldest of three boys.

Way to go, A.J.! You’re setting and reaching your goals!

Montana Matt

Meet Matthew, an ASPIRE Montana youth. Matthew is a 16 year old young man in his sophomore year of high school. He lives with challenges related to multiple physical diagnoses. However, he is not allowing these to limit his access to education, society and independence.

Matthew uses a motorized wheel chair for mobility and assistive technology for accessing his world. At school, he uses electronic books and a laptop to read and complete assignments. He has had to be an advocate for himself to achieve some of his goals at school. His high school has allowed him access to their IT department to help customize technology solutions to meet his needs. Matthew is soft spoken and understates his academic abilities. He is taking Advanced Placement courses as a sophomore and his career plan is to attend college and focus on Information Technology. At this time, he is not sure as which direction he will go with this career idea.

Matthew has been an active participant in ASPIRE working on goals, attending self- determination classes and meeting regularly with his Case Manager. He is connected with Vocational Rehabilitation and the local independent living center. He takes every opportunity to participate in activities related to growth and independence. Most recently Matthew participated in the Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living annual conference in Spokane. The conference has many learning tracks including self-advocacy, growing community awareness, independent living skills, and political action among others. He also attended the annual Montana Youth Transitions conference, the ASPIRE sponsored self-determination class and an annual Optimist Camp.

North Dakota
Minot ASPIRE North Dakota enjoyed giving back to the community in the month of October. Each region found a local organization and volunteered. Participants in Minot took advantage of a gorgeous fall day and helped rake leaves at the Roosevelt Park Zoo. Fargo participants decided not to brave the elements and escaped the wind by volunteering a Calvary United Methodist Church. ASPIRE youth and staff assisted by cleaning pews, dusting and vacuuming the church. FargoThe historical Grafton Public Library welcomed the help of ASPIRE youth and staff to sort books and put away items. ASPIRE youth and Case Managers enjoyed the experience of working together to reach a common goal and give back to these communities. Case Managers also utilized the volunteering as a way to discuss future employment, such as likes and dislikes and how to build off skills learned that may be used in future employment opportunities.

ASPIRE North Dakota staff also attended the All ASPIRE Training in Phoenix at the beginning of October. This gave new Case Manager, Jada, an opportunity to meet the entire ASPIRE team. ASPIRE staff appreciated the two-day Arbinger training on Outward Mindset, and the tools provided that can be used when working with families ensuring the focus is on the goals we have made with youth.

South Dakota
South Dakota ASPIRE youth have had opportunities this past month to spend time volunteering in a variety of ways. The ASPIRE Case Managers discovered that many of the youth have been participating in volunteer activities on their own for some time.  Here are just a few of the volunteer activities that ASPIRE South Dakota youth have done recently:

  • Helping recycle at a residential facility
  • Doing office work and maintenance in a state government building
  • Being a youth leader at a church
  • Helping out at the Humane Society
  • Helping at a fitness center at the YMCA
  • Setting up video game tournaments for students at a library
  • Helping to make food backpacks for the Feeding South Dakota Program
  • Mentoring younger students prior to a chess tournament


TaylorSometimes volunteering and paid employment go together!  Taylor, who did a paid work experience with the South Dakota Game Fish and Parks Department this summer, was recruited for a special project.  A local farmer had over 200 deer infesting his cornfield.  He requested help from Game Fish and Parks, who approved a special hunt to thin the herd.  Taylor volunteered as one of the hunters to help the farmer.  He learned that volunteering creates a positive impression in the job market and increases employment skills.

Utah Volunteering in the community is beneficial for the community (obviously) as well as the volunteer who gains useful skills and experience. Case Manager, Anjanae Merida, organized ASPIRE youth to assist in the "I Am Able Race and Children's Race" -- part of the famous St. George Marathon. The ASPIRE youth were tasked with handing t-shirts and race numbers to the race participants. They did a wonderful job! Also, race organizers asked one ASPIRE youth to dress up in a penguin costume. He was a natural getting the kids dancing and excited to run their race! Overall, it was a great volunteer opportunity for Utah’s ASPIRE youth. They really enjoyed giving back to the community!

November 15, 2017

In This Issue:

The Director's Corner

North Dakota
South Dakota

ASPIRE Website

Follow ASPIRE on Facebook

"Include Us in YOUR Newsletter!"

ASPIRE Partners

Contact Us

The Director's Corner

The holiday season is here.  Many faiths and cultures have celebrations during this time of year.  Families and communities celebrate their beliefs and heritages, and these celebrations often include special meals.  I have many wonderful memories of kuchen, rice pudding and latkes, as well as tamales, turkey, brisket and mutton.  But celebrations can be expensive and may not fit a typical monthly budget.

ASPIRE Case Managers work hard to be sure ASPIRE families have access to what they need this time of year.  They have lists of food banks and other resources for you to be able to enjoy these seasonal celebrations.  If you’ve not yet connected with your Case Manager this month, be sure to call 2-1-1 or visit http://www.211.org.  You’ll speak with a live assistant who can help you find what you need in your community.  They can help with food, housing, health and emergencies.

Happy Holidays!

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.



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.