Volume 3 Issue 2
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State Updates:

We are excited to announce two new members of the ASPIRE Arizona team, Elida Acosta, administrative assistant and Damian Geans Phoenix area Case Manager. We welcome you both!

As we continue to build our ASPIRE Arizona Team we are thrilled to see our ASPIRE Arizona youth and families join us at Open House events. Three open house events have been held in Phoenix, Peoria, and Tempe. During these Open House events, the youth and their families have an opportunity to meet and mingle, gather local resources from the Case Managers, and participate workshops such as in tax preparation or Turning 18- Legal Options. After an Open House, one parent shared the following statement “We all had a wonderful time at the ASPIRE workshop, very informative. Thank you keeping us updated with all the resources.” One youth was so happy to receive an ASPIRE backpack, that he put it on for the entire event.

Watch for additional workshop in the mail, from your case manager or online at http://aspirewest.org/arizona/upcoming-events-arizona. Mark your calendars and join us!! For questions or more information call toll-free (844)260-2890.

ASPIRE Colorado Case Managers continue to assist ASPIRE youth and families with increasing education and employment.

Below are a few examples from Becky Kinyon, an ASPIRE Colorado Case Manager in Adams County, north of Denver.

I wanted to brag about James. He was recently diagnosed with an Intellectual Disability, and now is in a more appropriate school setting. He recently received the “Student of the Month” award, for his great improvements! It’s the most improvement he’s shown in the last three years.

Marian just got a job at Taco Johns. She is able to get herself to and from work successfully and is thriving in a working environment.

Another youth recently received a a promotion at Chick-Fil-A. Tina is now a team lead! Along with the increased responsibilities, she received a $1 an hour raise! Exciting!

Finally, Filipe is set up to go to Emily Griffith Technical College for Automotive Services in the fall. What’s so great about this is that he struggled in high school, and did not think he was able to go to college. Now he’s going to college!

Everyday ASPIRE Colorado Case Managers are helping young people become more skilled and independent. ASPRIE really does impact the lives of the youth and families.

ASPIRE Case Managers wear a number of hats and often the hats require them to join an ASPIRE family on an emotional journey.

When Tisha first started working with the Owens family, they loved the idea of their son being employed but could not see the possibility with his ongoing behavior problems. Josh has moderate to severe autism. When Tisha first met him, he was very demanding and his violent behaviors were increasing. His behaviors became so intrusive that his family took him out of public school and attempted to homeschool him. Unfortunately Josh’s demands grew and the family soon felt as though he was dictating the rules in the home.

Without a doubt, Josh’s family loves him very much, so when supporting agencies recommended he go into a group home designed for youth with autism, they felt tremendous emotions. Tisha had experience working with group homes and attempted to help the family identify the positives and negatives of such a heavy decision. Once the family weighed all of their options, they moved forward with the decision to move Josh into the group home.

As the transition progressed, Tisha emailed and visited to see how the family was handling each step in the process. There was a lot of emotion, but the family remained engaged with Tisha and kept her updated on every change. Tisha obtained all of Josh’s new contact information and connected with the group home right away.

With the move final in November, the family reports the transformation has already been remarkable! Josh is learning how to cook, he is eating all kinds of new foods, he sleep has improved, he has lost some much needed weight, he is learning how to do laundry, and he is attending public school! His group home staff sends the family videos of all the new things Josh is doing, and the family is relieved to see him so happy. Tisha has her fist meeting with Josh in his new group home this month and the family is eager to see his future unfold!!

North Dakota
2017 is underway and North Dakota is celebrating families’ successes and their continuing work with ASPIRE. ASPIRE Case Managers have noted that their relationships with families continue to strengthen, and that they feel more connected than ever. Case Managers report more families are in touch, and more youth are attending workshops and classes ASPIRE North Dakota Case Managers are being very creative and finding ways for youth to be involved in community activities, as well as increasing their participation with ASPIRE. Last month, Grafton area families had a fun night of bowling, as well as trainings for both the parents and the youth.

ASPIRE North Dakota is happy to announce that this month two youth were accepted into the college of their choice. Another family accomplished the exciting milestone of becoming U.S. citizens. While excited to become citizens, it was also important to this family to ensure their daughter would qualify for services when she turned age 18 in January. It took some time, but the family and the Case Manager worked together to create a SMART goal and a timeline to help this family achieve this goal. Now the family is using their knowledge and experience to help other refugees learn English, and prepare for the process of applying to become citizens.

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 Dakota first starting working with ASPIRE in August of 2015 he was having some issues in several areas of his life. He deals with the daily challenges of having juvenile diabetes. He was home schooled for 2 years due to behavior problems and poor peer relationships. He talked about kids saying mean things to him. Dakota is 17 years old and has been raised by his grandparents since the age of three.

During the last year while working with ASPIRE, Dakota has made many positive changes in his life. He started to attend public school and is a senior with plans to graduate this year. At school his attendance and grades have improved along with his attitude. He volunteers daily at school with the school custodian and assists with maintenance repairs. This experience has helped improve his self- esteem and confidence while gaining valuable job skills.

Along with having a successful school year Dakota has also achieved many ASPIRE goals. One of Dakota’s first ASPIRE goals was to enroll with Vocational Rehabilitation. He achieved that goal and continues to meet with his VR counselor regularly. Through VR and the school, Dakota started Project Skills, which is a paid work experience for students with disabilities. He is now working at a Parks and Recreation job where he helps with maintenance of City Parks. He says this is not his “ideal job” and understands that it is a stepping-stone to the job of his dreams.

Dakota has participated in several ASPIRE Interventions. He attended a Self-Determination training while his grandma attended the Parent Training held at the same time. He and his grandma came to a Focus Group, met with ASPIRE Evaluation Team members and attended a recent Recognition Night. Dakota has expressed how much he enjoys meeting other youth at these meetings. He even knows most of them by name!

Over the summer, Dakota and his grandparents traveled across the country to visit relatives. The grandparents said they could not have done the trip without Dakota as they drove over 3000 miles. We are proud of Dakota and will continue to enjoy celebrating his accomplishments as he travels on the journey to adulthood.

Currently, the topic of refugees has been front-page news both nationally and internationally. ASPIRE Utah is not exempt from these world events. For one ASPIRE Utah family, these issues are real and personal. They are recent refugees from Syria. Fortunately, as the case manager points out, they continue to accept invitations to attend ASPIRE interventions, in spite of language barriers and cultural challenges. Within the past few months, the parents participated in ASPIRE’s financial classes. It appears that the family will qualify for an Individual Development Account. Thanks to ASPIRE, this refugee family is quickly learning about American credit scores and budgeting tools that will enable them to reach their long-term goal of owning a home.

February 15, 2017

In This Issue:

The Director's Corner

North Dakota
South Dakota

Staff Highlight - Steve Berry

ASPIRE Website

Follow ASPIRE on Facebook

"Include Us in YOUR Newsletter!"

ASPIRE Partners

Contact Us

The Director's Corner

ASPIRE is changing lives. As you read this month’s newsletter, take a moment to really consider what is happening in the lives of these teens and their families. Families are deciding to invest in a home. Teens are directing their own IEP meetings. Parents are learning how to save money rather than living month to month. Families are buying a car. Case Managers are working not only with the teens and families, but sometimes siblings. Lives are changing!

With just 19 months to go, I want to take a moment to acknowledge everyone’s work with ASPIRE. ASPIRE didn’t get where we are without a great deal of work and help from others. ASPIRE staff are working long hours, learning new skills and striving to support ASPIRE families. We have many partners across the six state consortium who teach new skills to and support their efforts. And most importantly, ASPIRE teens, parents and other family members are taking a chance by going to trainings, meeting with Case Managers and more. They have hope for something different in the future. As one parent put it, “I’ve got hope now. I can dream of something more! Our life will be different.”

So thank you to everyone! ASPIRE is truly changing lives!

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 - Steve Berry

Aaron Luckey

Steve Berry is the Information Technology Specialist for ASPIRE. He considers himself the “resident geek”, and in regards to his job, if it plugs in, he plays with it. Steve has been employed by the State of Utah since 1997, and has worked in I.T. for the Utah State Office of Rehabilitation since 2003. Aside from providing computer and network support, he manages the ASPIRE website and the ASPIRE Facebook page, does graphic design and layout for digital publications, helps with audio visual support for meetings, and even provides photography and videography for ASPIRE events and trainings.

Steve and his wife have four children and two grandchildren, and he loves to include them in his “geeky” activities. He loves to have “lightsaber battles” with his teenage boys, but his favorite opponent is his 3 year old granddaughter. They all work together putting together costumes for different events. In his spare time he volunteers with Salt Lake Comic Con and Saber Guild, a Lucasfilm affiliated Star Wars cosplay organization that works with a number of children’s charities. He believes “If you give me a Computer, a Camera, or a Costume, I am good.”

Steve Berry
IT Support 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

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.