Volume 3 Issue 7

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State Updates:

Marianne, ASPIRE Case Manager in southern Arizona shares the story of Jacob and his family. When Jacob and his family enrolled in August of 2015, he wasn't overly excited in ASPIRE. We discussed the research study, and what services they might receive if they were assigned to the ASPIRE services group. We completed the enrollment paperwork, and answered any remaining questions. I gave them the option to think about it and let me know their decision. Mom was ready to reschedule and call me back, then Jacob said he wanted to do it. Once assigned to the ASPIRE group, Mom was active right away. There were times when Jacob wasn’t quite as interested as his Mom. When he changed schools, he began to feel more supported and better about his learning and environment.

Jacob began to take more personal responsibility. He showed it by making his own meeting appointments with Marianne. He even began to run his case management meetings, accepting suggestions from her along the way too. Marianne would remind Jacob to follow through on his commitments by texting, etc. Jacob appreciates these reminders and will even ask for numbers or dates again. Marianne also worked with Jacob to apply for Vocational Rehabilitation. And he’ll be entering Barber school in the fall.

Jacob’s Mom and Marianne worked very closely to be consistent in their encouragement and holding him accountable as well. It’s paid off! On May 25th, Jacob graduated! This summer he’s working full time and getting ready for the step in his career!!

During June, ASPIRE Colorado held Recognition/Graduation Celebrations in many locations across the state! ASPIRE families were invited to lunch or dinner at a local pizzeria and all participates received a certificate of recognition for participating in the project, and a “Keep Calm and ASPIRE” t-shirt. Each high school graduate received a $25 gift card and frame for their diplomas – recognizing this great achievement. Here’s what four ASPIRE Case Managers have to say about the events!

Teresa Nielsen – Aurora
On June 13, ASPIRE Families were able to sit back, relax and enjoy a slice or two of some delicious pizza and celebrate the achievements of the ASPIRE youth. Graduating Seniors were recognized and all youth received recognition for their efforts with ASPIRE! Family members brought grandparents, aunts, siblings and others to join in on the celebration.

From Becky Kinyon- Northglenn
ASPIRE youth and families enjoyed a pizza buffet in Northglenn. Each ASPIRE youth was recognized for achieving their personal goals and received a certificate of recognition for being active in ASPIRE. Everyone cheered for each person! The youth were also given an ASPIRE t-shirt, which will be worn for volunteer activities during the summer. Two youth shared what it means to them to be a high school graduate and how they accomplished this milestone. Many of the families and youth stated they were thrilled to be at the event and mentioned on several occasions that it felt good to have positive feedback for their accomplishments. The celebration lasted over two hours, with a lot of laughs and high energy.

Cruzita Tafoya- Pueblo
On June 7, 12 ASPIRE youth and their families (totaling 48 people!) attended the recognition event held in Pueblo. One youth was recognized for his attending a local community college. Another was recognized for graduating this year. He plans to attend community college in the fall as well. Each ASPIRE youth was excited to receive a certificate for the participation in the ASPIRE project, as well as a t-shirt with the ASPIRE logo. Everyone enjoyed the celebration, especially taking photos with the fun props which were provided.

Jody Dettmer-Johnson Loveland
ASPIRE youth and families in the Larimer County event really enjoyed making connections with each other. Several of the youth know each other from school or other activities in their community, but new friendships were formed as well. Later, two high school graduates and the mom of the third graduate spoke to the group about the importance of graduating from high school and their future plans. They encouraged the youth to move forward with their high school education, and to think beyond high school and into the future, whether that is taking college courses, entering the workforce or attending extended high school services to complete transition goals. The event also gave Jody the opportunity to thank each of the families for their dedication to ASPIRE and remind them of the impact we are likely to have on services in the future. Each youth also received a Certificate of Recognition and a “Keep Calm and ASPIRE On” t-shirt. It was a fun evening for everyone!


Storm Shadel Taking the World by Storm - Storm Shadel is an ASPIRE youth from Montana who is making strides and not letting anything hold her back. Her primary disability is Marfan’s Syndrome, which is a genetic disorder that affects the connective tissue in her body. While Marfan’s causes physical limitations, Storm might tell you that her biggest barrier to employment and independence has been anxiety.

Storm attempted to apply for jobs multiple times but never followed through. Multiple case management meetings with ASPIRE revealed that Storm was not afraid to work but afraid of the rejection that might come after applying. Armed with her new self-awareness and with encouragement from ASPIRE staff, her amazing friends, and her heroic mom, Storm made the brave choice to master her anxiety and not let it dictate her actions. She walked into a local fast food restaurant and asked if they were hiring. The manager interviewed her and hired her on the spot! He obviously saw the same thing ASPIRE has known all along… STORM IS AMAZING!

Since starting her job, Storm has made several new friends. She works 10 hours a week and enjoys what she does. In addition to her new job, Storm just finished her junior year of high school and is preparing to attend college after she graduates.

North Dakota

Youth Recognition ASPIRE North Dakota held a Financial Capability Training on June 13th at the High Air Ground Trampoline Park. It was a blast! Parents completed a two hour training with Jamie, the Financial Trainer, in one of the party rooms while ASPIRE youth and their siblings jumped on the trampolines and ate pizza. The youth and their siblings made duct tape wallets and were excited to take them home. The ASPIRE Case Manager talked with youth about how they can practice saving money in their wallet and spending wisely. Jamie, reports on this eventful evening!

“Three mothers attended the training. We were able to have some great discussions on a number of topics. We started off by doing a learning circle activity/icebreaker. This was a chance for participants to share their own stories and also create discussion. I asked the group three questions. "What is the first thing you remember about money from your childhood?" "What is one thing you learned about insurance in your life?" "What is one of the best ways you know how to teach your children about good money habits?" The group had a great discussion on how they teach their children about money and they were able to give each other tips on what worked and what didn't work. Each family taught their children a little differently, some gave allowances and some did not. Some children were allowed a certain amount of money to use when they made a trip to the store.

This discussion lead to our next topic, "Guidelines for Teaching Kids about Money." Together we reviewed a worksheet, and families talked about how they already did these things or how they could start doing these things. For the remainder of the class we played a “Jeopardy” game based on the “Four Cornerstones of Financial Literacy” curriculum. The game had four categories: basic budgeting, saving for college, credit, and other. Throughout the game we were able to discuss a wide variety of topics, referring to the “Four Cornerstones” binders for additional information.

Specific topics covered included, Earned income tax credits, VITA tax preparation, net vs. gross income and deductions, fixed and variable expenses, FAFSA/student loans, college scholarships and grants, post-secondary training programs, ABLE accounts, tips to build credit, What a FICO score is and how it is calculated, how to obtain a copy of your credit report and the importance of it, What VR is and how they can help with employment, different types of health insurance and how to go about getting it, and low cost/no cost activities.

Two of the three mothers have never seen their credit report and said they were going to get a copy of this to review. One mother stressed to the other mothers how important it is and how it can help prevent identity theft. One mother said that she had learned a lot and that this was the best training she has attended. She stated that she learned about credit and that she plans to build her credit by applying for one card and using it for everyday items that she already purchases, like fuel.”

Parents in ASPIRE North Dakota are certainly learning about finances and applying it to their lives!

South Dakota
June and July have provided some exciting opportunities for ASPIRE youth in South Dakota. Several youth attended the Summer Career Development Forum in June and more are scheduled to attend in July. The Forum is one of the State Division of Rehabilitation Services summer initiative programs and was developed by the Career Learning Center of the Black Hills. They are held at Western Dakota Technical Institute in Rapid City which provides the students the chance to tour the campus, learn about programs and services available at the college and learn about accommodations available in the post-secondary setting. The Forums are one week long and focus on workforce readiness training, instruction in self-advocacy and information about Vocational Rehabilitation and other resources. Students can earn a $20 a day stipend based on successful work based skills such as arriving on time, dressing appropriately for work, having a positive attitude, participating in activities and supporting other students. As one ASPIRE student put it, “the best part is having fun and making new friends”.

Youth Recognition One ASPIRE parent had difficulty seeing much independence in her son's future. Fortunately, his mother and the ASPIRE Case Manager discovered a school program where he could be on the track team. But there was a catch. He has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair. Fortunately, the school program connected him with another youth who does the actual running and pushes him. Ever since the first track meet, the youth has loved being part of the team!

Participating in track and making important peer connections led this youth to attend homecoming with peer mentors as well. His mother explained it as the scariest and coolest thing to happen in a long time. She was so afraid to let him "just go with them and trust that they would be able to deal with everything he needed". But she saw the value in allowing her son to be part of something "typical". Overall, it has helped her to see that he is capable of having age appropriate experiences with his peers, and is learning to become more independent. She now feels that she is no longer alone in caring for his every need.

July 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

During the past two months, I’ve had the opportunity to visit with the ASPIRE staff in all six states. What an amazing and talented group of people!! They shared their experiences working with ASPIRE families, including driving four hours or hiking through snow blocked roads to reach a home. Some Case Managers have done a bit of ‘hand holding’ to get youth into the local vocational rehabilitation offices, and once there, see their interest pique with the possibility of working! Case Managers and youth are valuable in their communities as they get into the dirt, tending a local community garden. The stories are too many to share, but you’ll find more in this month’s newsletter.

One item on my mind in the final 15 months of ASPIRE is the need to finish strong. During these visits, Chris and Shonna, the ASPIRE Trainers, had time with each Case Manager to discuss specific cases and documentation and data entry. We also met together with the teams and discussed challenges and successes, and encouraged adherence to the ASPIRE procedures. It’s vitally important that to finish strong, we must all be doing our very best and that begins with our relationships with families and ensuring ASPIRE continues to be implemented to fidelity!

To do our best, ASPIRE relies on our many Partners as well. Please continue to encourage ASPIRE youth and families to fully participate in all that is offered – workshops, trainings and more. Encourage the youth to explore getting jobs. As ASPIRE youth and families develop knowledge and skills, hopefully they will have future outcomes different from the Usual Services group. That’s our goal in ASPIRE! Let’s finish strong!

Also, I’d like to welcome the new ASPIRE Arizona Site Coordinator, Shelley Baudean. Shelley has worked as a Case Manager in ASPIRE and brings great experience to her new position. Congratulations, Shelley!

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.