The Achieving Success by Promoting Readiness for Education and Employment (ASPIRE) initiative is a project of the Utah State Office of Rehabilitation, on behalf of six western states:  Arizona, Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Utah.  Awarded by the US Department of Education on October 1, 2013, this five-year, $32.5 million award targets enrollment of  youth ages 14 to 16 who receive Supplemental Security Income and their families.  Expected outcomes of this initiative include increased education and household income for the families, and reduced dependency on public benefits.  ASPIRE is one of six PROMISE projects nationally funded by the US Department of Education.

The Policy Institute at the University of Utah leads formative evaluation activities for the six-state ASPIRE project. Other partners in the formative evaluation team are University of Kansas and University of Montana. The formative evaluation team provides monitoring and feedback to project staff to allow for adjustment and improvement of recruitment and enrollment procedures, training, service delivery, management, and reporting. The management information system that compiles and analyzes all operational data is housed at the University of Utah.

Project staff are employed in each state to recruit and enroll youth and families, provide comprehensive case management and deliver interventions including:

  • Support to help the youth obtain a paid employment experience prior to leaving high school
  • Personalized benefits information and financial skills training for the youth and family
  • Parent information and training
  • Self-determination training for both the youth and family
  • Social capitol development through tools such as “Community conversations”

A national evaluator, MPR (Mathematic Policy Research), will conduct an outcome 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.