Volume 4 Issue 3

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State Updates:

February was a short but busy month for ASPIRE Arizona! We have been seeing some great successes from those who have been attending the ASPIRE workshops, including Self Determination. One mother shared her experiences: Ana said that her children really enjoyed the self-determination workshop series. She liked that the lessons allowed her kids to get to know other youth like themselves. Her son stated that he would like to attend future self-determination workshops and hopes to see more inspirational videos. He has learned how to speak up for himself, and how to make decisions on his own. Mom said that she has noticed some changes in her son's behavior--he is advocating for himself more often and he is remembering to complete his chores.

Summer may seem far away, but now is a great time to start thinking about summer jobs, volunteering or other employment experiences. Speak to your Case Manager about the ASPIRE Employment Folders. They are full of resources and guides to help your youth.

It would also be an great time to sign up for Benefits Counseling, a FREE service to help you understand your family's benefits and how future changes may affect those. Ask your Case Manager about that as well.

There is lots happening in ASPIRE Arizona during March:

  • Self Determination workshops in Winslow, Glendale, Avondale, Window Rock, Mesa, and Flagstaff
  • Financial Education workshops about taxes in Phoenix, Mesa, Window Rock, Sierra Vista, Holbrook, Casa Grande, and Yuma
  • Raising Special Kids workshops in Phoenix, Pinetop, Coolidge, Surprise, Morenci, and Second Mesa
  • Job Fairs in Glendale (21st), Mesa (28th), Pinal County (28th), Sierra Vista (28th), and more
  • A wonderful event March 24th from 10am-5pm at Gateway Community College called GPS: Navigating Life in Transition. Call 602-659-9202 or 602-908-7148 for more information or register at https://events.r20.

Talk to your ASPIRE Case Manager or check out the ASPIRE Arizona calendar: https://tinyurl.com/ycw87v23

Tiana ASPIRE Colorado would like to highlight Tiana Isaac for her courage and strength! Despite many challenges, Tiana has remained very committed to participating in ASPIRE and regularly meeting with her Case Managers. Let’s hear what she has to say.

My name is Tiana Isaac and I am 18 years old. At birth, my newborn screen reported I had sickle-cell anemia. By six months, the disease began to ravage my body. I began dealing with pain crisis, swelling of my hands, feet, fingers, legs, and my arms. At the age of five, I suffered a stroke that left me with nerve damage and I was paralyzed on my right side of my body. I had physical therapy for eight months to gain my strength.

I was ill during my early school years and spent a lot of time in the hospital. I regularly contracted pneumonia, developed hypertension in my heart and lungs, lived with asthma and needed blood transfusion every three weeks. In December 2013, the medical team informed me the importance of adhering to medication regimen. They predicted that if I did not take the medication and not do what I was supposed to do, I may die before my 16th birthday! With each year, my health grew worse. Despite 12 medications to keep me alive and healthy, the pain and suffering of the disease just got worse. My medical team suggested a bone marrow transplant.

In 2016, I began the process, demonstrating that I was ready, taking all my medications and following all the “Doctor’s Orders.” It also meant being ready to take even more medications after the transplant. First up was getting a port to allow medications to be administered. Next came high doses of chemotherapy. During this time, I experienced nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Only my closest family were allowed to visit – my parents and four siblings. Once my body was ready, then I could receive the transplant and wait for the new donor cells to begin to grow.

On May 8th 2017, I was admitted to the hospital to start my transplant. The doctors said that I would be in there for 6 months to a year. However, I only ended up being in there for 32 days! I had no problems and came out of the hospital a champion!

I am currently finishing high school, working on driver’s education and obtained my first job at Wendy’s Restaurant. I still have hypertension in my heart and lungs, but I am cured of Sickle Cell! I am a Sickle-Cell Anemia Warrior and am strong and a fighter. This year I am named the Sickle Cell Ambassador of 2018.

See the ASPIRE website to read Tiana’s full story!

ASPIRE Montana has two exciting new additions to the team; Marilyn Weber and Madison (Madi) Weisberg. They will be the new case managers for central and southwestern Montana. We are very excited that they are part of our team and confident our ASPIRE families will have a fantastic experience with them.

Marilyn Marilyn enjoys hiking with her daughter, riding her bike and being outdoors when the weather is warm. She was drawn to ASPIRE because of the opportunity to help youth find the resources that would enable them to succeed in life as independently as possible. She looks forward to seeing the youth she works with achieve their goals. She also hopes the families she connects with will leave ASPIRE knowing they are valued, and capable of achieving great things.

Madi Madi enjoys cooking and any excuse to get outside and play… especially hiking and backpacking. She was drawn to ASPIRE’s research component, and how the work ASPIRE is doing will influence future services and resources for youth with disabilities and their families. She looks forward to building relationship with the ASPIRE families, supporting them through big steps in life, and hopes she can instill some increased confidence that will last long after the project ends.

Please join in welcoming two amazing women to the ASPIRE team!

North Dakota
March is Developmental Disability Awareness Month! In 1987, President Reagan made a public proclamation that the month of March be recognized as Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. This month is used to promote awareness about developmental disabilities and instill the importance of inclusion in everyday life. This year’s theme for national Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month is “See Me for Me!” This means looking beyond someone’s disability and seeing them as a person and not just a person with a disability. The National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities’ website shares some great resources to help plan activities to recognize Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, visit https://nacdd.org/ddam/ for more information.

ND YouthASPIRE North Dakota youth are working to set goals for themselves, control their own destiny and increase their self-determination. These youth would like others to embrace the to “See Me for Me!” slogan. During the month of March, ASPIRE North Dakota will continue to host several self-determination trainings in communities across the state. During the past few months self-determination trainings have been provided in a new format, three two-hour trainings in three consecutive months, in both Minot and Bismarck communities. Parents and youth have liked this approach! They know what to expect, and know they can ask questions of the trainers the following month. At a recent training, youth participants worked on budgeting and skills to become employed and staying employed.

South Dakota
Jacob Jacob is a sophomore at Huron High School. Tynell, his ASPIRE South Dakota Case Manager and his teacher, Mrs. S. have seen some amazing personal growth and maturity in two years. Mrs. S. has said Jacob is almost a different kid now. She mentioned how he has become a leader in his classes, and has begun advocating for himself, and other students as well.

Jacob began working with Vocational Rehabilitation shortly after he enrolled in ASPIRE. Once Jacob turned 16, he began the job hunt through Project Skills. In July of 2017, he began working as a stocker at Fair City Foods. Jacob’s employer has been very impressed with his work ethic and dedication. Jacob will frequently come into work if someone is out sick or if they are short-staffed. He always finds work that needs to be done before being asked. Once he completed Project Skills, Fair City wanted to keep him on, so they hired him. Jacob enjoys his job and Fair City loves having Jacob!

Jacob has also started looking toward the future. He is considering the Army and plans to explore this as an option after high school. Jacob is set to take the ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery) this fall and will use the summer to study. Jacob applied for the Youth Leadership Forum this year to grow his leadership skills.

Jacob’s determination and growth over the past 2 years has been a joy to watch!

CaseyASPIRE youth are exceling in school and in their communities, as well as in ASPIRE. One ASPIE Utah youth is going for the gold in the Junior Blind Olympics. He is a junior in high school who loves to compete. At the Jr Blind Olympics in California, he has always won silver and bronze in sporting events like wrestling, judo, rock climbing and kayaking. This year, he says, he’s going for gold.

Casey also regularly competes at the State Braille Challenge. This event tests participants’ skills in a) reading comprehension b) proof reading c) speed and accuracy, and d) charts and graphs. Each time he’s competed, Casey has taken second place. He won’t be satisfied until he takes first and can represent Utah at the national level.

Recently Casey was one of six winners of the “Study Abroad Australia Expanded Core Curriculum” contest. His prize? A two-week trip to Australia where he will learn about educational practices and opportunities. To win this competition, Casey wrote an essay and received a recommendation from his school counselor.

Since his Freshman year, Casey has been an honor roll student and plans to attend an in-state college or university. He is considering a major in computer programming, but becoming a doctor or teacher has possibilities as well. Whatever his decision, Casey will be going to the best! Go Casey!

March 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

ASPIRE has been in place since October, 2013. Youth enrolled when they were between the ages of 14 and 17. That means that they are now four years older! They are growing up and moving into adult life, getting jobs and living away from home. In fact, the average age of youth in ASPIRE is now 17.85 years. The youngest youth is 15.81 and the oldest is 20.21. Nearly half of the youth are now over the age of 18!

There are lots of actions to take when becoming an adult.

  • Identification – Having an ID is important for many municipal and community activities. Options include a driver’s license, state ID card and college/school IDs.
  • Social Security – the rules are different for adults than for children under age 18. Understanding these rules is very important. Benefits Counselors can help explain these many new details.
  • Selective Service – All young men must register for Selective Service when turning age 18. Not registering may impact federal benefits and government employment.
  • Healthcare – Young people often transition from pediatric to adult medical care. Exploring options and doctors is very important.
  • HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) – Young adults will now be signing their own HIPAA forms at medical/healthcare offices. It’s important to know what this means!
  • Register to Vote – Adults in the United States have the privilege of voting in municipal, state and federal elections. States laws determine the identification needed, and govern the extent to which a person has the right to be helped by others in the process of registering and voting.
  • Guardianship/Supported Decision Making – Some individuals need support to make life decisions. This includes signing a lease for an apartment, entering into a cell service contract, and more
For many youth, these transitions may be simple, but for others they may be more complicated. If you have concerns about any of these areas, ASPIRE is ready to help. Contact your ASPIRE Case Manager.


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.