Volume 3 Issue 8

facebook twitter aspirewest.org

State Updates:

ASPIRE Arizona is excited to welcome Lisa Vandever to the ASPIRE team! Lisa is a Case Manager who will be working in Northern Arizona, specifically with the Navajo Nation. July was a busy month in Arizona! ASPIRE Arizona hosted its first Career Expo. This event included workshops on interviewing, practice with mock interviews, a panel of people with disabilities speaking about their careers, and ASPIRE partners Ability 360, Raising Special Kids, and Vocational Rehabilitation explaining their services. Coming in August is the Arizona Department of Education Transition Conference. Many ASPIRE youth and parents are expected to attend!

Summer has been an exciting time for ASPIRE youth in Colorado. While many youth are working this summer, others are exploring employment! The Colorado Case Managers have arranged work experiences, job clubs, and volunteer activities. Frank Carcellero, working in Northeastern Colorado shares summer volunteer stories.

Josaiah and Nathaniel have consistently attended every summer volunteer activity as well as the ASPIRE Recognition event. These young men have played basketball against one another for the past several years, but didn’t really know each other. At the Recognition event, they really hit it off. They have now become friends, instead of just being on opposing teams. Both Josaiah and Nathaniel will be seniors this fall. During the summer volunteer activities, they hang out together and help each other out. They have volunteered at the Weld County Food Bank, The Greeley Centennial Museum and the Poudre Learning Center. Nathaniel was able to eat as many tomatoes as he wanted after pulling weeds at The Greeley Centennial Museum. Both Josaiah and Nathaniel enjoy being in ASPIRE and volunteering this summer.


ASPIRE Montana Case Manager, Debi Gilsoul, met Allen at a behavioral school before APSIRE ever kicked off. She remembered him as active and described him as, “the Tasmanian Dare Devil”. She was not entirely surprised when his name appeared for possible enrollment in ASPIRE.

Debi assures us that, “Allen and his Dad have hearts of gold”, however upon enrollment in ASPIRE, Allen was refusing to take his medication for ADHD. He was attending his school’s mental health program. Debi believes these two services contributed to a tremendous turnaround Allen’s life.

Today Allen is working at the school’s kitchen, the food bank, the thrift store, and he delivers papers one day a week! He loves his many jobs and he is good at them! Allen is known as the “hard worker” in the school’s kitchen and is the only one trusted to stay after work and close up. He wants to get a job this summer at Wendy’s. So he and Debi have made applying there this month’s goal.

Allen’s Grandma plans to help him buy a car if he keeps his grades up. So Grandma and Debi talked to Allen’s teacher about helping him study for his driver’s training. We are so proud of Allen! He is working hard to achieve success in education, employment, and independent living. Go Allen!

North Dakota

ASPIRE North Dakota was able to support and encourage many youth statewide to attend or work at a variety of camps and community activities over the summer.

These opportunities included:

  • A youth attending a two-week camp which provides two weeks of social interaction with their peers in a positive environment.
  • A youth attending Techno camp which serves youth with physical disabilities and focuses on augmentative communication providing technology and music classes as well as recreation activities,
  • A youth attending Church camp providing fun and recreation as well as faith based activities.
  • A youth attending Transition camp geared towards young adults ages 17-19 which provides a mixt of workshops, classes and recreational activities preparing campers for the transition of moving from high school and living at home to independent living situations and jobs while gaining more independence.
  • A youth working as a counselor at a camp with Deaf and Hard and Hearing campers.
  • A youth attending Camp Wilderness through Boy Scouts which focuses on character building, citizenship training and physical/mental fitness.
  • A youth attended Triple Star Day Camp offered to individuals ages 10 and up with varying abilities, giving them opportunities with age appropriate activities, as well as participating in community activities and summer activity centers.
  • A youth working at the Summer Performing Arts Company for two months and offers classes, such as vocal ensembles, steel drums, music theory, and jazz dance; vocal lessons; backstage work on a technical crew; and on-stage participation in a musical.

Although each experience was vastly different, youth, parents and others had similar perceptions of how these opportunities positively impacted the youth. They seem more self-determined, independent and confident. One teacher at the Summer Performing Arts Company says, “He did an amazing job, and I am so proud of him.”

Case managers worked with families to secure the needed funds, including scholarships through ASPIRE to make these opportunities possible. These activities helped increase their self-determination and advocacy skills. Many youth went outside of their comfort zones, especially leaving home for extended periods, but all were very successful!  Way to go ASPIRE North Dakota youth!

South Dakota
Jacob’s story is one that literally spans the state and multiple case managers and it is the story of one young man’s amazing ability to succeed in the face of adversity. When Jacob first began working with Case Manager Barry Gravatt in Rapid City, he was enrolled in an alternative high school and was struggling with many issues. He was trying to attend school while at the same time get his mother to her many medical appointments. He also assisted in the care of his young niece and nephew. His day was often spent running from day care to the hospital then to school and back again. During this time he also struggled with his own addiction issues. He would often be the first to admit that he needed to get help and realized he needed to take care of himself in order to take care of his family.

Despite his struggles, he was always there for his family and friends. At one point he lost a close friend in a drinking and driving accident. He said it was only by a twist of fate that he was not in the car with them that night. After the accident he learned of other students talking about suicide on Facebook. He took it upon himself to contact others and go talk to the person, which probably headed off another tragedy.

The financial burdens eventually became too much and his family could not afford their rent. He tried getting them another place but eventually they lived with various relatives until they decided to move to Sioux Falls where there was more employment opportunity and less negative influence. Jacob then began working with Linda Schoon, the ASPIRE Case Manager in Sioux Falls.

Since moving to Sioux Falls Jacob has had many positive things happen in his life and is making great strides at reaching his goals.

At a recent monthly meeting, Jacob talked about how he has been sober for 7 months and that he continues to work as a warehouse laborer on the night shift in the loading and shipping department. He said it is very hard work and he has seen several co-workers come and go. He said he is determined to stick with job and has a goal to be a shift team leader. He said the job has good wages along with benefits and profit sharing.

Jacob was excited to tell Linda that he has been able to save money, pay off bills, buy a car and even get a raise. He said that having a car takes the pressure off family members who have been driving him to work and back. He talked about a night when he did not have a ride and had to walk about 30 miles to get work and back. Now that is determination!

Jacob would still like to get his GED and even talked about going to college to be a mechanical engineer. We look forward to seeing Jacob continue with his accomplishments, he is definitely the kind of young man who can make those things happen.

ASPIRE Youth and their families in southern Utah recently participated in a Youth Recognition Event. Dinner was provided, door prizes were awarded, and each youth received a special plaque memorializing his or her unique accomplishments. (One youth reportedly slept with his plaque beside him for two nights following the event.) Among the youth who attended, there were notable achievements by all including:

  • 80% of the youth have worked since joining ASPIRE
  • 80% of the youth have a plan with vocational rehabilitation
  • 90% have met with a Benefits Specialist to learn about Social Security, healthcare and more
  • 60% have goals to attend college and advance their education
  • 100% are on target to graduate from high school or receive a Certificate of Completion
Following dinner and awards, many families stayed to visit and/or go swimming. On behalf of ASPIRE, a special thanks to the St George Vocational Rehabilitation Office staff who attended and assisted in numerous way to make the evening’s activities a success!

August 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

It’s hard to believe summer is almost over and school is starting! It’s been a busy summer in ASPIRE and fall is looking to be even more busy. October is Disability Employment Awareness Month. This year’s theme is, “Inclusion drives Innovation”. One of ASPIRE’s goals is to encourage youth with disabilities to be as active in their communities as any other youth! To that end, all ASPIRE youth and staff will have the opportunity in the fall to “Give Back”. Youth and staff will be volunteering at are variety of locations in their communities. Plans include serving meals at a soup kitchen, sorting and delivering food boxes, tending community gardens and even checking bags at a regional Comic Con event. Now that’s what I call some serious inclusion ASPIRE youth will experience in their communities!

Have you checked out the ASPIRE website lately? http://aspirewest.org There you can find all the events being offered across ASPIRE. Each state’s page lists all the events and contact information. Thanks to our partners who are sure to share these opportunities, so ASPIRE families can quickly find them.

ASPIRE has a Facebook page facebook.com/aspirewestorg and twitter account @aspirepromise. Posts and tweets support the many areas of ASPIRE. Every day, you’ll find information on education, going to work, finances, parenting, living independently and more. While it’s great information for ASPIRE youth and families, it’s also for everyone. ASPIRE strives to post accurate and positive information.

Social media is one way to communicate within ASPIRE, as well as with the larger community of colleagues and partners. Personal communication is important as well. Meeting with families, phone calls, emails, texts and even good old-fashioned mail are all ways ASPIRE is reaching out to youth and families. With just 14 months left, ASPIRE works hard to regularly talk with youth and families, meeting their immediate needs and working with them to achieve their goals for school and work.

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.

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.