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News & Press: FOCUS

ASPPIRE: Enriching Talent in the Lansing Community

Monday, October 1, 2018  
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ASPIRE (Adaptive, Social Programs, Providing Instruction, Recreation, and Enrichment) a non-profit in Lansing that serves adults with autism and other social disabilities, is celebrating their tenth anniversary. From social coaching, game nights, employment guidance, and community events, ASPPIRE has been providing an outlet for social growth.

The social coaching model that ASPPIRE uses has been developed by local educators and parents which helps over 250 individuals statewide. ASPPIRE also provides social coaching and trainings to Michigan school districts, community rehabilitation organizations and postsecondary educational institutes such as Michigan Career and Technical Institute (MCTI) in Plainwell, Michigan.

The organization is comprised of two directors, a financial analyst, a program analyst, a job developer and a variety of social coaching facilitators and volunteers. Maria Peak, Director of ASPPIRE, has a background in special education at the local, county, and state levels. Maria’s passion for the ASPPIRE participants and organization is evident, “I have the opportunity to work every day with amazing individuals who have talents and skills that benefit our community”. Bob Steinkamp, Deputy Director, is a retired special education teacher, supervisor, and principal. He taught special education courses at Lansing Community College and co-authored a reference and organization book for students with social challenges. ASPPIRE’s financial analyst, Aileen Hecht, is a former ASPPIRE participant with high functioning autism who has a B.A. in business administration with a focus in accounting.

At the program’s core is social coaching, a weekly meeting led by a trained facilitator. ASPPIRE currently serves approximately 125 individuals locally during three sessions providing year-round programming. Peak stated, “ASPPIRE provides a variety of social opportunities and supports. Those who take part in the program see the value and begin to make connections. We haven’t turned anyone away that we think could benefit from our services due to age or financial hardship.”

ASPPIRE provides employment supports such as referring quality employees, job coaching, soft skills training, and diversity training. ASPPIRE participants have a multitude of abilities. Many of our participants have postsecondary education and degrees. Often, individuals with developmental disorders have less opportunities for employment, despite being qualified. Steinkamp stated, “We see these amazing people and their skills, but many haven’t been given a chance for employment”. Peak adds, “The more we have diversity in our community, the better we are. We need people to be accepting of everyone, it enriches the work culture. ASPPIRE participants have proven to have employment success when a door has been opened.“

If you know of someone who could benefit from ASPPIRE or your company is interested in hiring an ASPPIRE participant, please contact them by visiting their website, or call 989-272-2977.

Click here to read the October edition of FOCUS

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