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About the ASPIRE Project

Youth with disabilities going to work and advancing their education.  Financial stability.  Youth and families being more independent.  Dream!  Act!  Achieve!  This is what ASPIRE is all about! 

In September 2013, the U.S. Department of Education awarded the PROMISE Initiative (Promoting Readiness of Minors in Supplemental Security Income) to a six state consortium, ASPIRE (Achieving Success by Promoting Readiness for Education and Employment). The six states of the ASPIRE consortium are Arizona, Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Utah. The purpose of ASPIRE is to

  1. Increase a youth and family’s overall household income, and thereby reduce the household’s dependence upon public benefits, by increased educational attainment and increased career achievement.
  2. Inform federal policymakers in all the four federal agencies through evaluation of interventions and outcomes.

2051 youth and their families enrolled in ASPIRE before the closing date of April 30, 2016.  To be eligible, the youth were between the ages of 14 and 16 and receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI). The youth were randomly assigned to one of two groups. Both the ASPIRE and Usual Services groups will receive the services available in their communities. The ASPIRE Services group will receive additional services and supports.

ASPIRE Interventions. The same interventions, or services and supports will be delivered to ASPIRE youth in the six states. Delivery of the ASPIRE Services may vary by state depending on each state’s infrastructure and framework. Interventions for youth and families assigned to ASPIRE Services include:

  • Training and information for parents and families, including advocacy, community resources, educational and employment opportunities, and more.
  • A complete individualized explanation of the public benefits the youth and family are receiving and how working and increased earnings will impact those benefits.
  • A paid employment opportunity for the youth while he or she is still in high school.
  • Self-determination training for the youth and families.
  • Financial education and capability training to assist families in understanding their values and available resources to move from poverty to self-sufficiency.
  • Case management services provided to the youth and family to assist them in navigating the complicated systems of public benefits and assistance in accessing services, supports and information to support greater self-sufficiency.

ASPIRE Staff.  ASPIRECase Managers live and work in the same communities as the ASPIRE youth and families, across all six states. Additional staff will provide project wide training and direction, as well as ensure consistent implementation and completion of all project goals. All Staff must receive suitability clearance from the Social Security Administration. They will receive training, including:  family-centered assessment and planning, interview and case management strategies, cultural and poverty competency, plain language communication, Social Security and other work incentives, customized employment and resource mapping.

Evaluation. A national evaluator, MPR (Mathematic Policy Research), will conduct a rigorous evaluation of the PROMISE project to determine effectiveness at improving the educational employment outcomes of participating youth and reducing their dependence on SSI, increased family income and overall household reduction in dependence on public benefits. MPR will be conducting evaluation in all PROMISE Initiatives nationally. They include ASPIRE, California, New York, Wisconsin, Maryland and Arkansas. ASPIRE will cooperate with MPR and conduct formative evaluation during the operation of the project. The ASPIRE Formative Evaluation Team is comprised of evaluators from the University of Utah, University of Kansas and University of Montana. A management information system is used to compile and analyze all ASPIRE data.

ASPIRE – a Unique Consortium. The PROMISE initiative offers a unique opportunity for the Western states, with diverse demographic and geographic composition, to inform federal policymakers. The ASPIRE consortium is representative of the United States, with a broad a cross section of demographics, geography and culture. This type of demonstration across the six states will ensure the unique characteristics and needs of urban, rural, frontier and tribal populations are represented within this national initiative. The $32.5 million award began October 1, 2013 and continues until September 30, 2018.

For further information, contact Carol Ruddell, ASPIRE Project Director at (844) 880-9172 toll free or email ASPIRE at


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