Volume 4 Issue 10

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State Updates:

Nick Nick is a happy-go-lucky young man from Vail, Arizona. He and his family have been active participants in ASPIRE for nearly three years. Nick has grown so much over the past few years, and he and his parents are very proud of the hard work and determination he has shown. Aside from going to school, Nick works as a party host and mascot at a local skating rink, a job he has held for a year and a half, where he prides himself on his positive attitude and good customer services skills.

As a senior this year, Nick decided to enroll in the Fire Service program through the Pima County Joint Technical Education District (JTED). This intensive program holds classes two evenings per week and occasional Saturdays. At the end of the school year, Nick will be eligible to take the certification test to become a firefighter or wildland firefighter. Through the course of the school year, students learn and practice the same material as cadets in the Tucson Fire Public Safety Academy. Nick is also earning dual credit at a local community college for a Fire Science Academy Track Certificate, which can then be applied towards an Associate of Applied Science in Fire and Emergency Services degree. By the time he graduates in May 2019, Nick will have all the training required to apply for a full-time position with the Tucson Fire Department if he so chooses.

Nick’s enthusiasm is so contagious. Recently at an ASPIRE case management meeting, he demonstrated how quickly he could get his equipment on and off! With his Dad timing him, he was breaking his own record! Nick is going to use his experience for his Senior Exit Project, and include what he’s learned about the career options, as well as his experience with 40 ours of ride-alongs with a local fire station.

Nick is also participating in a Transition from School to Work (TSW) program at his high school, where he works in the daycare facility on campus with the pre-kindergarteners. He loves working with kids and says that bringing a smile to their faces gives him joy. Nick is very enthusiastic, and as his TSW coordinator said at a recent meeting, “Nick’s energy level matches the children’s energy level perfectly!”

Nick is still undecided about which route he would like to take after high school, but he is glad to know he has so many options!

One of the primary goals of PROMISE and ASPIRE is that young people will graduate from high school and pursue additional education or training. Case Managers keep this goal in mind when working with ASPIRE youth. Becky Virkus, ASPIRE Colorado Case Manager has been working with Maggie to achieve her employment dream.

Maggie is a young adult whose goal is to complete her GED. Unfortunately Maggie was expelled from her local high school and no amount of effort resulted in her being readmitted. Because she really wanted to finish high school, Becky and Maggie investigated available GED programs in the Denver Metro area. Eventually, Maggie enrolled in the Emily Griffith GED Preparation Class. Maggie has excelled in this environment! She rides local transit to attend classes, and is very determined to complete the GED exams. Maggie knows the importance of having her GED in order to find employment. She will take the first of the four GED exams at the end of the month. Maggie states that without ASPIRE and Becky’s assistance, she would not have had the support she needed to achieve this major milestone. Go Maggie! We know you can do it!

ASPIRE Montana would like to highlight the great work our partner agencies are providing. For the last few years, four Independent Living Centers (ILC’s) provide Self-Determination training to ASPIRE families across Montana. These ILC’s have been tasked with coordinating trainings at locations and times that are most accommodating to ASPIRE families. They connect with ASPIRE staff regularly to seek input, but for the most part have been given freedom to be creative. This has translated differently in each ILC’s service area because each must overcome unique challenges.

SUMMIT, the ILC serving western Montana, has ASPIRE youth dispersed widely with very few living near each other. This makes it difficult for families to travel to one or two single training locations. To remedy this, SUMMIT has created a variety of options for youth. They can attend trainings at SUMMIT’s center, at school, or even on an individual basis if necessary. For MILP (Montana Independent Living Project), the largest barrier has been connecting to youth in institutional or group home settings. MILPs willingness to accommodate these youth on an individual level is nothing short of inspiring. Living Independently for Today and Tomorrow (LIFTT) is an ILC that has seen its fair share of youth moving at a moment’s notice. This has forced the agency to adapt quickly by adding trainings in new, previously unserved locations. Their flexibility and determination show tremendous commitment to ASPIRE youth. Finally, in the area for North Central Independent Living Services (NCILS), all but two youth live in the same area, but what about those other two? NCILS has gone above and beyond to meet with the two remote youth, providing them with over ten trainings in four different locations to ensure accessibility.

The Independent Living Centers in Montana have been amazing partners with ASPIRE Montana. We all share the passion for encouraging youth with disabilities to rise above and overcome challenges. We are so grateful their services will remain available, even after ASPIRE ends.

North Dakota
ASPIRE North Dakota families are attending their last Parent and Self-Determination trainings scheduled for this fall. Parents hear from a panel of professionals, to learn about Vocational Rehabilitation counselors, Protection and Advocacy, ASTEP (Advancing Students Toward Education and Employment Program), and Developmental Disability Program Managers. Each of these agencies and organizations can support the youth’s transition process. To prepare for the training, parents are making a list of questions and scenarios for the panel to discuss. As a result, parents have stated their many questions were answered, and now understand how to access new resources for their children.

Youth Self-determination trainings continue in ASPIRE North Dakota throughout the state. ASPIRE youth are now able to identify their disability, and explain to others what helps them to be successful at school and work. They are also participating in self-determination activities that lead to discussions such as risk taking, accommodations, and participating in their Individualized Education Plans (IEP) meetings. These individual and team activities are fun and engaging learning experiences. ASPIRE youth are excited to see other youth who have become their friends over the last several years. Some youth have become great friends, and even attended each other’s graduations this year.

As the last round of ASPIRE trainings are offered for parents and youth, everyone is encouraged to attend. There are still knowledge and skills to learn for the future!

South Dakota
Ea Ku Htoo Ea Ku Htoo started his senior year this fall. The future has seemed so distant, and goals to prepare for the future didn’t seem reachable. Now with his final year of high school well under way, Ea Ku Htoo told his ASPIRE Case Manager, Tynell Millner, that his goal to attend college is right around the corner, and he has found a whole new level of motivation. Since the beginning of ASPIRE, Ea Ku Htoo always had the goal to attend a technical school close to home and pursue a career in construction. Through his involvement with ASPIRE, he researched technical schools and narrowed his choices to two schools close to home. Last spring he visited one of the campuses and decided that would be the school for him!

After going through the school’s information and pamphlet, he decided to enroll in the Architectural Design and Building Construction Program. He asked Tynell to help him apply for school. During their September meeting Ea Ku Htoo and Tynell completed the application. His goals are becoming reality, and he is seeing his future unfold before his eyes. Goals that seemed so far away two years ago are now at Ea Ku Htoo’s fingertips.

Ea Ku Htoo has recently overcome some health issues, and is excited to be back on the soccer field this Fall with his school team. Not only is he playing soccer for the high school team, he also volunteers as a referee for the youth soccer league in his community.

Ea Ku Htoo is very excited for his future and ASPIRE is excited to watch him continue to grow!

Isabella is a recent high school graduate who turned 19 this month. With this milestone achieved, Misty Fielding, her ASPIRE Case Manager asked how could she help her with her next steps. Isabella always talked about getting a job, but never did. To her credit, Isabella asked for assistance with her resume. Together, Isabella and Misty organized a resume and set a goal for Isabella to complete and submit four job applications each week. Remarkably, it took only one week to get an interview at a local department store. Although Isabella wasn't offered the job, her Case Manager turned the experience into a learning opportunity so that Isabella would do better in future interviews. Isabella did just that! She was offered a position at an award winning, national company. Isabella is excited to start her job and is already considering what dreams and goals to achieve next.

October 18, 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

Have you ever put off doing something that needed to be done? Thinking that the future is so far away, I’ll have time to do it later? I can procrastinate a bit longer. It’s something we all do. And as the end of 2018 approaches there’s lots to do.

Some ASPIRE youth will need to explore their college or technical training options very soon. Applications will be due very soon. Young people seeking financial assistance to attend college or technical school next year should be getting their FAFSA application completed. If you’ve not applied for Vocational Rehabilitation, that application needs to be turned in. Vocational Rehabilitation offers great services for high school students, including career counseling. They are a wealth of information about college or technical training programs.

Are you planning to go to work soon? Is your resume ready? Do you need practice interviewing? ASPIRE Case Managers can help young people and their parents polish their resumes to show they are the best candidate for a position. And practice how to answer some of those tough interview questions.

So don’t put off what you need to do any longer! Make that ‘to-do’ list and get at it! And if you need help making that list? Speak with your ASPIRE Case Manager. They can help break down those big goals into the smaller, achievable steps. Do put it off. Be ready for the future!!


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.