Happy Indigenous Peoples Day

The ASPIRE Native American Committee would like to wish all in our ASPIRE region a happy Indigenous Peoples Day. On this day, we honor the indigenous peoples of our land and recognize their history, culture, and contributions. We also acknowledge Native lands that we occupy. We encourage you to identify native land and languages in your area and others by visiting this website. In addition, you can click here to learn more about how and why to write your own land acknowledgement. As this source states, acknowledging territory “is a way that people insert an awareness of Indigenous presence and land rights in everyday life.”


-ASPIRE Native American Committee

ASPIRE 2020 Agenda

Hard to Reach Presenters

Black Lives Matter

Today, as the entire nation seeks peace and justice, ASPIRE Inc. stands in solidarity with Black communities, including our TRIO professionals, students, participants and alumni impacted daily by racism, violence, and systemic oppression.
We support and stand collectively to mourn the unjust loss of George Floyd, one among countless others senselessly killed in recent times and historically.
TRIO programs, established during the 1960’s War on Poverty and rooted in the civil rights movement, are deeply committed to assisting low-income, first-generation students, and students with disabilities, to overcome these barriers through the pursuit of higher education.  We know that our students hold intersectional identities beyond those specific TRIO demographics including race, sexual orientation, gender identity, among many more.
We call attention to the fight to eradicate inequality and oppression, to advance our long-cherished values of educational opportunity, and to make this world a better place by developing the next generation of leaders. 
Rooted in our TRIO history and love for this work, we invite non-black people of color and white allies within TRIO to unite in the call for an end to racism and racial violence.  We recognize our power, opportunity, and role in dismantling systems of oppression.  
Our students, families, staff, and alumni of color are valued and essential members of the ASPIRE community. We join in their anger, pain and search for change. 
Black Lives Matter. 
ASPIRE Board and Social Justice Committee

Colorado State University awarded the Barry Goldwater Scholarship

Mikaela Elder, a current participant in the Student Support Services Academic Advancement Center at Colorado State University, was recently awarded the Barry Goldwater Scholarship.  Regarded as the most prestigious scholarship given to undergraduate students in the natural sciences, engineering, and mathematics, it is granted annually to about 300 college students from across the country.  The Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program was established by the United States Congress in 1986 in honor of former U.S. Senator and 1964 presidential candidate Barry Goldwater. Its goal is to provide a continuing source of professionals in STEM by awarding scholarships to college students who intend to pursue careers in these fields.


Her motivation to pursue a career in STEM has been influenced by her own personal life experience with a genetic condition.   Diagnosed with Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS) and Mast Cell Activation Disorder (MCAD) when she was twenty-one years old, Mikaela was determined to not to allow this health issue to negatively impact her from pursuing her goals.  In her words, “Though I struggle as times, I believe that POTS and MCAD have given me invaluable skills to manage stress and maintain a positive attitude, even through difficult situations.  This outlook has been an advantage to my education because I am now motivated by challenges instead of being intimidated by them.”


As a senior in the College of Natural Sciences at CSU pursuing a baccalaureate degree in biochemistry, Mikaela has conducted research involving proteins in relation to Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis and other neurodegenerative diseases.  She is also currently working on a bioinformatics project as well as a statistics research project involving methane gas at landfills.  Her career goal is to become a computational biologist for the Center for Disease Control or a medical institution where she can conduct research in mechanisms and factors affecting genetic diseases.  Her journey will continue after her graduation next May as she plans to pursue a Ph.D. in computational biology or computational medicine.  “My research experience at CSU has shown me that research is my life’s calling,” Elder said. “I really enjoy the research process. I feel really fortunate to be at a place that prepares students to be amongst the best in the country.”

Montana TRIO Student Leadership Conference

In late March, the weekend before the MTASPIRE state conference, TRIO SSS programs across the state held the first (hopefully) annual TRIO Student Leadership Conference in Helena, MT.

Staff from several TRIO SSS programs planned the training over several months and put together a 3-day Student Leadership program.  Thirty-six SSS students from 6 different campuses gathered in Helena for a 3-day training on growth mindset, leadership styles, diversity and advocacy training. Anna SanDiego from Flathead Valley Community College led off with an engaging opening “Something from Nothing Fashion Show.” The conference continued with sessions led by Carlos Arce, Dr. Steven Seth Funk, Shanon Stober, and Jeff Folsom. Helena Mayor, Wilmot Collins was a special guest speaker. The conference concluded with a visit to the state capital to talk with legislators about the importance of access to higher education.

Student feedback was extremely positive; we hope Montana TRIO SSS programs will be able to continue this Leadership Conference as an annual event.

Sen. Thune visits DWU

Senator John Thune was on the Dakota Wesleyan University campus last week during the National TRIO Day. We talked with him about the reauthorization of higher education, and I thought it went well. In addition, one of our students did talk with Senator Thune, which was great to hear directly from a student. In the attached is a picture of Senator, student, and me Thomas Madut

TRIO Day in Colorado

TRIO Day was a huge hit! We invited all programs and their students throughout the state to celebrate with us in Denver at the State Capitol. We had over 100 attendees – the most we’ve seen so far, a lot of which had to drive for hours in the early morning to be there on a cold and snowy day! Also in attendance, were Senator Leroy Garcia, Representative Daneya Esgar, and Representative Colin Larson. We started the day with our Legislator Breakfast, where they addressed us as a whole and took questions. After the Legislators spoke, several students got up to share their own TRIO stories, which were raw, passionate, and inspiring. We then walked over to the State Capitol as a group to sit in on the General Assembly in the House of Representatives, where the TRIO Proclamation was read out loud to everyone. After the Assembly, we did our Service Learning Project. This year, we partnered with Project Angel Heart, which is a non-profit organization that prepares and delivers meals to those who are severely ill. We decorated brown paper bags in which the meals will be delivered in. After our Service Learning Project, we then had lunch, during which we spent time writing letters to our Representatives and Senators, which will be hand delivered during the Policy Seminar in March. To conclude our day, we unveiled a TRIO Promo Video, which we will use to hopefully recruit more TRIO professionals to get involved with ASPIRE and become members. We then heard more TRIO stories from students, and had some closing announcements. All in all, it was a fantastic day for both professionals and students. So many smiling faces, incredible stories, and love. For a lot of our students, it was their first time at the State Capitol, which made it even more of a great experience!

University of Montana food pantry opens

The ASPIRE Community Service Project at the 2018 ASPIRE Conference in Missoula, Montana was to help this project. https://kxlf.com/cnn-regional/2019/02/13/um-unveils-new-resource-to-combat-student-hunger/

ASPIRE members featured in TRIO podcast

First Generation Panel with Special Guests

December 20, 2018

First Generation Panel 

  • Panelists: Dr. Oscar Felix, Dr. Paul Thayer, Marilyn Thayer, and Andrea Reeve
  • Intro Music by: Makaih Beats (https://makaihbeats.net/about)
  • Transition Music by: John Russell
  • Audio Equipment and Recording: John Russell