Volume 4 Issue 1

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State Updates:

In December, ASPIRE Arizona welcomed, a new Case Manager, Jennifer Almond! Jennifer is very excited to begin her work with families in Southern Arizona.

ASPIRE youth are growing and learning many new skills. They are also becoming more independent and self-determined. One example is Jose. Jose is taking the initiative to catch up with high school credits, to earn his diploma. This means he has to communicate with his teachers and counselors. His goal after graduating is to become a chef. Jose is working with his Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor to achieve his future goals.

There’s a great deal happening for ASPIRE youth and families in Arizona:

  • Self Determination workshops in Phoenix, Maricopa, Tempe and Payson
  • Financial Education workshops in Kingman and Goodyear
  • Workshops for parents in Phoenix and Avondale
  • Employment workshops, including help with resumes and interview skills
Talk with your ASPIRE Arizona Case Manager or check out our calendar for more information: https://tinyurl.com/ycw87v23

AJ Improving education and employment are two of the main goals of ASPIRE. One Colorado youth is doing both! Anthony Hoffman and his mother, Dawn, were some of the first enrollees in ASPIRE. Since then, Anthony has completed his high school credits and is attending North High School 18-21 program. Anthony enjoys school and is on track to complete his program May 2019. Blending work and school is one way Anthony has worked toward the ASPIRE goals. Through his school, he has gained work experience at the Boys and Girls Club. Anthony interacted with the students, facilitated activities, and assisted staff in cleaning the facility. Through this experience, he was able to fulfill another one of his dreams! He met and was treated to a shopping spree from the Denver Broncos, his favorite football team.

This semester, Anthony will work at the Goodwill Industries on Tuesdays and Thursdays. He will also continue to work with his Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor, Nikisha Charles-Stazzone. Nikisha and Anthony are exploring jobs and building work skills. Nikisha states, “Anthony is very eager and motivated to enter the workforce. He is comfortable talking to employers and is able to talk about his needs.”

To combine both his interest in working with sports, Anthony would like to work at Lids while finishing his school program. As a Denver Bronco fan, working in sports apparel will connect him with other sports enthusiasts.

One of Anthony’s greatest memories of ASPIRE is when he and his mother toured a gaming business. They saw games produced and tested. The facility was so secure; Dawn and Anthony were not allowed to take pictures.

Anthony’s mother, Dawn, supports and encourages Anthony’s drive to learn the world of work and gain independence. She encourages Anthony to do his best and his successes show just how motivated he is! Go Anthony!!

ASPIRE Montana youth, Lizzy, is making quite the name for herself. Lizzy has autism and since enrolling in ASPIRE, she has connected to the Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) program. VR arranged for her to have a work experience at the Triple D Ranch. While there, Lizzy fed baby animals, cleaned cages, and completed other ranch related tasks, a regular ranch hand. Lizzy will participate in other job experiences with VR to ensure she is headed toward the employment she desires. Lizzy made quite the impression on the owners of the Triple D Ranch. They have bragged about her work ethic and praised her work while there. They were so impressed, they want to hire her full time when she graduates this spring! If this works out, Lizzy still plans to take a class at the local community college while working at the Triple D. Lizzy is considering moving into the college dorms to experience a more independent lifestyle. Lizzy’s ASPIRE adventure has also resulted in her connecting to the local Independent Living Center where she has taken self-determination classes. Lizzy’s mom has also participated in the Financial Capability trainings and the Benefits Counseling provided by ASPIRE. Well done Lizzy!

North Dakota
Happy New Year! Many people are encouraged to start something new with the New Year. Here in North Dakota, 2018 is off to a big start. Case Manager, Jada McDonald, shares Dakota’s story.

AJ Dakota, an ASPIRE North Dakota youth from a rural community, recently spoke to Jada about enrolling in the Burdick Job Corp Center in Minot North Dakota. When Jada asked him, “Why do you want to go to Job Corp?” Dakota said “Well, I will get skills that I will actually use in the real word.” That is exactly what Job Corp’s mission states, “to teach eligible young people the skills they need to become employable and independent and place them in meaningful jobs or further education.”

After several months of exploring his options, Dakota toured the Job Corp Center in December. While on the tour, Dakota learned about the various career path pathways offered. After touring the different trades and learning about the benefits of each, Dakota decided he would like to pursue both the culinary and carpentry trades. Dakota will attend Job Corp for two busy and productive years where he will have the opportunity to earn his GED, as well as become a certified chef and a skilled carpenter. When he graduates from Job Corp, Dakota will have had real life experiences, developed communication skills for work and community situations, and be able to resolve real life conflicts and work issues.

Another of Dakota’s goals is to become a Job Corp Area Student Leader. Area Student Leaders are mentors, recreational aides, residential advisors, safety marshals, and student tour guides at the Job Corp Center. Dakota is excited to learn these leadership skills and work closely with the community to encourage others.

ASPIRE is excited to see Dakota work hard to set these goals to further his education and be ready for his career.

South Dakota
One of the most enjoyable parts of doing the recent ASPIRE Check Ins with families has been looking back at all the accomplishments and successes over the last 4 years. That was the case when Barry Gravatt, ASPIRE South Dakota Case Manager completed a Check In with Jon and his family.

When Jon first enrolled in ASPIRE in August 2015 he was being home schooled. His family were temporarily staying with friends until they could locate a house closer to where Jon’s dad worked. Jon has always been an active participant in the Self Determination classes. They eventually found a house, and moved to Custer where Jon enrolled in Custer High School. He continued his involvement in ASPIRE and took part in several career camps at WDTI (Western Dakota Technical Institute), where he was able to explore career options in many fields. Looking back over Jon’s goals it was obvious that he never let anything slow him down. If one plan didn’t work out he was quick to start on a new one.

Jon had foot surgery, and shortly after getting back on his feet he was getting in shape for high school sports. He tried out for football, and running middle distance in track, placing in several events. His goal was to join the National Guard his senior year, but when health issues postponed that plan he put his efforts into work.

Without any help, Jon found not only one, but two summer jobs. He saved up enough for a new bike to ride back and forth to work. He then started on a goal to get his drivers permit, which he also accomplished. As a senior volunteer project Jon decided to create a resource for other seniors who were trying to decide on a career choice. It is now being distributed to his high school and other schools in the area. Prior to turning 18, Jon and his family worked with a Benefits Specialist through ASPIRE to discuss what would happen to his SSI and medical benefits after 18. They remember Jon saying, “I hope when I have my Age 18 Redetermination they say I’m not disabled”. And that may happen. Fortunately, by working with a Benefits Specialist, Jon will be able to access the Section 301 Work Incentive so he can maintain his benefits and medical coverage while he completes his educational goals. Jon will graduate this May and has plans to attend WDTI in the fall to study computer science. It has been an honor to work with an amazing young man like Jon and his family. We look forward to seeing him accomplish even more of his goals.

An ASPIRE Utah youth, Ehab and his family have a truly contemporary, American immigration story. The family were born and raised in war-torn Syria. They fled to Egypt, and were able to eventually immigrate to the United States and Utah in 2015.

Ehab’s father, Nour, is an accomplished chef and has been practicing the culinary arts since he was 16 years old in Syria. Currently, he has his own catering business called Noor Al Sham. The community supports his business efforts through an organization called the Spice Kitchen Incubator (spicekitchenincubator.org) whose mission is to "help refugees and disadvantaged individuals start their own food businesses and share their culinary traditions and talents with the Salt Lake Community." Noor Al Sham caters delicious meals for family, business, and corporate events.

Nour wanted to start his own catering business to make life better for Ehab and his three siblings. They work hard to assimilate into the U.S. culture. In an effort to give-back to the community, and to ease the transition for other refugees, Nour began a non-profit organization that helps newly-arrived Syrian refugees adjust to life in Utah.

This is just one of many remarkable stories of ASPIRE families!

January 15, 2018

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 most fundamental service ASPIRE provides is meeting with youth and families each month. Many goals and challenges are discussed and these monthly meetings ensure the youth, family and Case Manager are on top of whatever is needed or happening in the youth’s life. This month will complete the special “Check In” meetings. In addition to the typical discussion items, these Check In with the youth and families are very targeted. Case Managers and families are reminded that ASPIRE is a research study. New goals are developed. Strategies to increase participation are discussed. What’s been accomplished is celebrated.

For some youth and families, this Check In has sometimes been a ‘reintroduction’ of ASPIRE. Perhaps they’ve been away from ASPIRE services for a short time. Case Managers have a fresh opportunity to share again, the many available services and supports, and assist youth and families with connecting with Social Security, Vocational Rehabilitation and many other agencies and services. It’s great to hear how they are participating more now.

So ASPIRE youth and families – if you’ve not yet had your Check In meeting with your Case Manager, call them today! Our goals is to complete these by the end of January. There’s not much time left! Are you graduating this year? Looking for a job? Planning to apply for financial aid for school? Your Case Manager can help you with all of this and more! Call today!


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:

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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.