Volume 3 Issue 3
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State Updates:

Arizona’s lemon, orange and grapefruit trees are blooming which means beautiful weather and Spring Break! What better way to enjoy than to attend an ASPIRE Arizona event, workshop, or to say hello to an ASPIRE Case Manager! This past month Ability360 and the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension presented Self-Determination and Financial Education workshops in Tempe and Tucson. ASPIRE families learned about increasing tax benefits and ASPIRE teens learned self-advocacy skills and building confidence.

Case Manager, Ramona, her ASPIRE youth, Sebastian, and parent toured a collage in Yuma. Sebastian is a sophomore who is setting goals for his future! During the tour, he met with a counselor and learned about the campus resources. He also learned the types of courses offered for his area of interest which is welding and mechanics. By the end of the tour he connected with an academic advisory. They were very excited to hear about their options!

If you are an ASPIRE youth or parent/guardian, contact your Case Manager to help with addi-tional resources or to setup a college tour. Remember to check out the many statewide opportunities, http://aspirewest.org/arizona/upcoming-events-arizona

ASPIRE Colorado Case Managers continue to share stories. These stories come from Jennifer Winders in Colorado Springs:

Bobby will be graduating from high school in May and anticipates attending the culinary program at Pikes Peak Community College. Bobby’s goal is to become a chef! Bobby is currently gaining culinary experience through a high school internship at the Silver Key cafeteria. He loves it. The Silver Key reports Bobby is a great asset and they enjoy having him in the kitchen. Bobby reports he has learned many techniques from his internship. The experience has solidified his decision to become a chef. Bobby currently balances school and a part-time job at Taco Bell. Bobby has set financial goals in his ASPIRE plan, with the hope of moving into his own apartment in June. Bobby will be getting his driver’s license this month!

Tim is a young adult who lives with autism. Though he graduated in May, 2016, he and his family are finding that additional supports are needed. Tim, his family and Case Manager have worked with the local Community Center Board to find options for him. He attends three days a week to continue to develop his social skills, and has a weekly work experience as well. Tim has also had volunteer experiences in his community, including packing boxes at the Care and Share Good Bank. Tim’s sister has also benefited from ASPIRE. Mary has not been successful in working due to her severe anxiety. She is now working with Vocational Rehabilitation and the School to Work Alliance program. She has appointments scheduled this month! The family is feeling supported because they now have options they did not know existed before enrolling in ASPIRE.

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

Meet an amazing young woman who has worked hard to achieve her dream of being the first in her family to graduate high school and go to college.

Deja is an enrolled member of the Confederated Salish-Kootenai Tribes in Western Montana. She was a young girl when her father passed away. Her mom was gone and she was placed with her grandma. She bravely tried the Montana School for the Deaf and Blind her sophomore year, but missed her family too much and returned home mid-semester. To make up credits she needs to graduate this year, Deja is completing a full schedule of senior classes as well as making up credits in PE, Biology, English, and Math. She is enrolled in Vocational-Rehabilitation, (VR) and has had an assistive device evaluation which has opened doors for not only work, but college. She now has a reading app on her phone which allows her to take a picture of anything she wants to read, and it will read it to her. This has been life changing. Before, someone had to read her assignments to her. She regularly visits SUMMIT Independent Living where she is achieving her PE credits through biking, yoga, Living Well with a Disability classes, and walking.

This fall, Deja will be attending Salish-Kootenai College to get her 2 years of general education completed. She then plans to attend either MSU-Billings or UM-Western to achieve her college degree in Special Education. She told me, “I would like to be the kind of teacher that listens to my students and helps them with school. I want them to know I care about them.”

Transportation is an issue in rural Montana, with no bus system, Uber, taxi, etc. is available. Using a Social Security work incentive, Blind Work Incentive, Deja will contract with someone to provide transportation, and then report it to Social Security who decides on the deduction of the transportation cost. With the transportation issue solved, Deja will now start employment activities with a Job Coach. She is excited to try several different areas of employment, hoping to learn more about child development and cooking. Deja had a new experience when she attended the MYLF Conference in Helena in November 2016. The MYLF conference inspired her to try new things and she would like to attend again.

Deja is on her way to living her dreams and navigating life on her terms! Go Deja!

North Dakota
North Dakota had unusually warm weather in February. So we began thinking about summer jobs for ASPIRE youth! ASPIRE met with the North Dakota Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) and North Dakota Job Service to see what is available for ASPIRE youth. DVR has a Work Experience opportunity for youth to develop soft skills in real workplaces. DVR also offers Workplace Readiness Training so youth can develop social and independent skills.

North Dakota Job Service has opportunities for youth and parents to participate in apprenticeships. Apprenticeships combine paid on-the-job training with technical instruction in highly skilled occupations. Job Service also has new options for youth through WIOA. These options build skills in the areas of financial literacy, entrepreneurial skills training, local labor market information, and activities that help with transitioning to post-secondary education and training.

ASPIRE North Dakota Staff will be volunteering in an upcoming poverty simulation hosted by Community Action. Since ASPIRE Case Managers were participants in the ASPIRE poverty simulation in October, this time they will serve in the volunteer roles. Community Action Poverty Simulation (CAPS) promotes an understanding of poverty. During the simulation, each person will role-play the life of low-income family members, from single parents trying to care for their children to senior trying to maintain their self-sufficiency on Social Security.

South Dakota
When Ea Ku Htoo was just 4 months old, he and his family had to flee the jungles of Burma to safety in Thailand. Burma, now Myanmar, was no longer safe for the Karen people as a civil war was raging in the country. For the next 14 years, Ea Ku Htoo lived in a refugee camp in Thailand. In 2015, Ea Ku Htoo, his sister Ehmoo Na, and their mother moved to Huron, SD. Along with the culture shock, language barrier and cold weather that South Dakota winter’s offer, Ea Ku Htoo also learned he was very sick. One of his kidneys was failing, and he would need a transplant. He was very lucky and was able to receive a kidney transplant in August 2015.

Five months later, Ea Ku Htoo enrolled in ASPIRE. So many great things have happened for him and his family since then. Ea Ku Htoo’s is doing great after his transplant surgery. He has been able to start playing soccer for the community league in Huron, and is considering joining the high school soccer team this coming fall.

Ea Ku Htoo took driver’s education classes in the summer of 2016 and was able to get his license. He then had a goal to purchase a car! This past January, he used some funds he saved, as well as some borrowed money from family to purchase his first car! January was a very exciting month for the whole family. Ehmoo Na and her fiancé also purchased their first home, and moved in the first week of the new year. Ea Ku Htoo is currently living with his sister, Ehmoo Na, and her fiancé in their home.

With the help of Vocational Rehabilitation, Ea Ku Htoo started working at a local grocery store at the end of January. He works part-time after school four days per week. He is also interested in car mechanics and is considering attending technical school after graduating from high school.

For some families, simple improvements can take years. But it’s worth it. Read how one case manager noted a family’s progress.

One ASPIRE Utah family has two siblings enrolled! When Evan and Eric first began meeting with the Case Manager, their responses were limited to “yes” or “no.” Like their parent, they had no ambition to work or even volunteer. The parent was convinced that she would always stay home to care for the two teens because of their struggle to maintain basic hygiene. After two years of steady progress, going to ASPIRE events and interventions, and also connecting with community resources, the two teens now start conversations, have friends, and have work experience too! Evan is doing an internship through a post high school program while Eric worked at a local store over the holidays. Their mother also found employment. In our last monthly appointment, the mother talked about doing some things for herself since she now sees that her two sons are capable of greater independence. This give her greater freedom as well. Mother recently said that she never would have imagined this two years ago.

March 15, 2017

In This Issue:

The Director's Corner

North Dakota
South Dakota

Staff Highlight - Elida Acosta

ASPIRE Website

Follow ASPIRE on Facebook

"Include Us in YOUR Newsletter!"

ASPIRE Partners

Contact Us

The Director's Corner

Spring! So many things come to mind. The snow is melting. The trees are budding. The flowers are coming out. While all of these things make me excited, I’m reminded that it’s tax time!

Tax time can cause worry and angst for all of us. But there’s a good news for ASPIRE youth and families. They will be using the Earned Income Tax Credit. The youth can also use the Student Earned Income Tax Credit. Both of these tax credits let someone with limited income, keep more of their earnings.

The process to file taxes can be daunting as well. But there’s help for that too! The IRS (Internal Revenue Service) has secured tax preparation help for those needing assistance. The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program offers free tax help to people who generally make $54,000 or less. And it helps persons with disabilities and limited English speaking taxpayers who need assistance in preparing their tax returns. IRS-certified volunteers provide free basic income tax return preparation with electronic filing to qualified individuals.

To find help in your local community call 888-227-7669 toll free or go online to https://www.irs.gov/individuals/free-tax-return-preparation-for-you-by-volunteers.

Happy Spring! Happy Tax Time!

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 - Elida Acosta

Elida Acosta

Elida Acosta is passionate about education, community, and youth development and very excited to work with the ASPIRE Arizona team.

Born and raised in Phoenix Arizona, she comes from a family that invested in faith and community service. Since she was a young girl, she has assisted others in the churches she attended. Her mentors always explained that leading is eating last at community meals, and asking if there is anything more to assist those being served.

Elida has been active in community organizing roles and loves education and the power it brings for her community. She continuously seeks opportunities to grow and develop her skills and abilities. Elida is especially excited to learn and grow with the ASPIRE Arizona team.

Elida Acosta
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

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.