ASPIRE Regional Conference will be held in historic downtown Colorado Springs, Colorado at the Antler’s Hotel, September 29th thru October 2nd, 2019.

Registration and call for proposals will be coming in late spring of 2019.

For more information visit

Celebrating First Generation Students at MSU Denver

Celebrating first generation students and their hard work at Metropolitan State University of  Denver (MSU Denver).

Welcome to Montana TRIO, COE, and Educational Opportunity/Access Colleagues! 

Welcome to Montana TRIO, COE, and Educational Opportunity/Access Colleagues! 
I am delighted to have you join us in Missoula, the “Garden City”, for the 42nd – 2018 Annual ASPIRE Conference. We have packed a lot into the agenda affording opportunities to enhance your knowledge, enjoy cultural experiences, network, and promote a healthy lifestyle. I want to thank our Conference Co-Chairs, Peter Donaldson and Alysa Arrowtop for a fantastic job of getting us here today! Their time and enthusiasm deserves a huge applause! A huge shout-out to all the committee volunteers who readily jumped on ship to help! Much appreciation for your engagement.

I am especially excited about our pre-conference sessions. Many thanks to Paul and Marilyn Thayer and faculty, Andrea Reeve, Oscar Felix, and Amy Verlanic for their inspiration and vision to extend their expertise to ASPIRING leaders in our new ASPIRE Leadership Institute training (ALI). Now, more than ever, we need ASPIRE members to be equipped with skills and knowledge to be active in ASPIRE leadership opportunities. Our SSS grant writing pre-conference would not happen without the efforts of our TRIO Professionals, Andrea Reeve and Amy Verlanic. Andrea and Amy, in addition to Maureen Hoyler, COE President, are volunteering their time to coach us for the upcoming competition. Many thanks for your support!

Over the past year, as I served as your ASPIRE President, we have addressed many challenges and have been victorious! This does not happen without your engagement and advocacy. We need to continue to be vigilant and active every day. I hope you understand your membership gives you voice and is valued and important to the ASPIRE region.

I have to say I have grown leaps and bounds this last year, often lamenting I wish I had taken on a larger ASPIRE leadership role earlier in my career! It has been extremely valuable to me and it can be for you, too. Your ASPIRE Board has been a superb team to work side-by-side with this past year. My heartfelt thanks for your dedication, tireless work, and commitment to ASPIRE. If you have an opportunity, please thank these colleagues! In as much as I have built my career around TRIO, I can honestly say the leadership opportunity to serve you has been challenging but also a year of immense personal satisfaction and growth. I hope I have been one small part in making a stronger ASPIRE region.

I hope the “boundless opportunities” you take with you at the end of the conference inspires and refreshes your tool kit as you return to your programs to support your students. Have a wonderful conference, make new friends, and have a bit of fun!

With much appreciation,

Darlene Samson

May Student of the Month

Hattie Penny with EOC is proud to announce her choice for the May Student of the Month! Chelsie is a mom of three from Arapahoe, Wyoming who will be starting college this summer semester at Central Wyoming College. A GED graduate & first-time mom at 16, Chelsie originally started college right after attaining her high-school equivalency. Due to her infant’s life-threatening illness at the time, she had to postpone her dream. But Chelsie worked hard on gathering the documentation of her daughter’s illness & writing her petition letter to have her financial aid reinstated at CWC. Not only that, she worked on every scholarship app she could get he hands on & will have over $2,000 in institutional scholarships + Pell this summer. She will have all that plus her Sky People Higher Education scholarship for Fall semester. Chelsie is always willing to help others, especially if they are also college-bound. Her kids are excited that their mom will soon have homework too! Best wishes to Chelsie–we can’t wait to keep hearing about your success! Chelsie Wolf is a mom of three from Arapahoe, Wyoming who will be starting college this summer semester at Central Wyoming College. A GED graduate & first-time mom at 16, Chelsie originally started college right after attaining her high-school equivalency. Due to her infant’s life-threatening illness at the time, she had to postpone her dream. But Chelsie worked hard on gathering the documentation of her daughter’s illness & writing her petition letter to have her financial aid reinstated at CWC. Not only that, she worked on every scholarship app she could get he hands on, & will over $2,000 in institutional scholarships + Pell this summer. She will have all that plus her Sky People Higher Education scholarship for Fall semester. Chelsie is always willing to help others, especially if they are also college-bound. Her kids are excited that mom will soon have homework too! Best wishes to Chelsie–we can’t wait to keep hearing about your success!

Central Wyoming College Student Support Services Graduates 78 Students on May 11th


In celebration of 30 years strong at CWC, Student Support Services graduates 78 TRIO students on May 11th! The following link shares our graduation celebration on April 25th!

ASPIRE award nominations

It’s AWARDS time again! Please take a moment to nominate deserving individuals for the following awards:

– TRIO Achiever 

– Rising Star

– Friend of ASPIRE

– Champion of TRIO

Champion of TRIO Nomination Form 2018

Friend of ASPIRE Nomination Form 2018

Rising Star Nomination Form 2018

TRIO Achiever Nomination Form 2017-18

Recipients will be recognized at the ASPIRE Region Conference in Missoula, Montana in Octobe 2018.  To nominate an individual, you must be a current ASPIRE member, and the eligibility criteria for each award are briefly described below, as well as, on the nomination forms. Please email me your nominations by June 15, 2018.  I will reply to all nominators to verify that I have received your nominations.

TRIO Achiever:
1)must be a former TRIO project participant who was enrolled in and successfully completed a TRIO program in the ASPIRE region; 2) must have enrolled in and successfully completed a postsecondary program of study resulting in a bachelor’s or terminal degree from an accredited institution of higher education; 3) must be a person of high stature within his/her profession or have received recognition for outstanding academic achievement; 4) must currently be employed above the entry-level baccalaureate level; and 5) must have made significant civic, community, or professional contributions. Participation in a TRIO project must have had a significant impact upon the candidate in obtaining his/her professional objectives (as acknowledged by the participant).  TRIO Achievers who are selected should be prepared to present a five minute address to the ASPIRE membership during the TRIO Achievers’ Luncheon at the 2018 conference in Missoula, Montana.

Rising Star:
1)worked in TRIO for three years or less; 2) excelled in providing services to TRIO and/or to ASPIRE at the local, state, or regional levels; and 3) been nominated by anyone at the local, state, or regional level.

Friend of ASPIRE:
This award is determined by requesting nominations from project personnel in institutions that have an Institutional Membership to the Council for Opportunity in Education (COE). The nominee can be a President, Vice-President, Dean, or other non-TRIO person in that institution or community who has been particularly supportive of TRIO.

Champion of TRIO
Appropriate nominations are received and approved by the ASPIRE Executive Board. Criteria to be a nominee consist of the following: 1) being an elected official (includes Tribal Council members); 2) evidence of active support of TRIO and disadvantaged students; and 3) must serve constituents within the ASPIRE Region.

 Thank you for taking the time to recognize those individuals who have supported the mission of ASPIRE and TRIO through their dedication and advocacy!  Feel free to contact me if you have any questions. Thank you!

Jami Bayles,
ASPIRE Awards Chair

April Student of the Month

The EOC Participant of the Month for April 2018 is Rodney. This was a very easy choice for me as the Natrona County EOC Coordinator, as he is the epitome of a TRiO/EOC success story! I am honored and privileged to work with Rodney, and I am in awe of his dedication to his newly found passion for education, his community, his service to others, and his sobriety.

I met Rodney in the spring of 2017 at the Casper Re-entry Center; he was in the Therapeutic Community (TC) unit for substance use related issues. In 2012, Rodney was in a vehicle rollover crash and lost his ability to walk. He lost his job, income, and was no longer able to provide for his family – financially or emotionally. “Long story short, my alcohol abuse landed myself in several trips to jail, depression set in and I didn’t care anymore, my last drink cost me a five year prison sentence leaving my family on their own. I knew I had to change me, and requested to be placed at TC in Casper Therapeutic Community Rehab. I learned about my disease & behaviors knowing I couldn’t return to that lifestyle.”

During a group presentation at CRC/TC, I met Rodney. He was very interested in the content of the presentation, and immediately signed up for EOC services in Casper. “Trio visited the facility and offered a new start; I signed up that day. I was released in August 2017 and registered for classes within days. My major is Electronics Technology at Casper College and now I am fulltime student.”

Rodney is finding a lot of success in his Electronics classes, and checks in frequently with the EOC office to discuss GPA, class schedules, and scholarships. He has received several scholarships and grants, and is on track to graduate at the top of his class in his major. His academic goals are right in-line with the Objectives outlined in our grant: “My academic goals are to receive an associate’s degree in Electronics in 2019. When I achieve graduation, I plan to attend the University of Wyoming to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Electronics.”

In addition to being a fulltime non-traditional student, Rodney is also the Resident Manager at The Hope House, a Sober-Living house in the Casper community. He frequently volunteers for other entities in our community. “My volunteer and community service is mainly CR (Celebrate Recovery) in Casper. I am a fulltime volunteer every Friday night or whenever needed if possible. I help cook, serve the evening dinner, and attend the evening services. I also help with the food bank prior to leaving for the night. I try to put in a minimum of twenty-four hours a month. I also volunteer at the 12/24 Club when they are in need of workers for their activities.”

I am honored to work with Rodney, and I look forward to his graduation(s) from Casper College and  the University of Wyoming in the future!

Natalie Pique – EOC Coordinator

Central Wyoming College Celebrates TRIO Student Support Services – 30 Years Strong

Student Support Services (SSS) celebrated 30 years at Central Wyoming College with an Open House on Wednesday, March 7th from 11:30 – 1 pm.  Student success stories were visible for all to appreciate. Student Support Services at CWC is an honorary program for students who are dedicated to their success. Over the past 30 years SSS has served over 6,300 students. The current SSS programs serves 410 students annually and is the largest SSS program in the 6 state ASPIRE region; Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming.

According to Jewel Dirks, SSS director at CWC from 1991-2001, “Linda Fossett wrote the original grant  under the auspices of Mohammed Waheed, the King of Grant Writing.  Janelle Pepper Chew was the first director, 1988-1990.  I think the original number served was something like 210.”  According to Dirks, “We upped the number of students served to 410 to get a better ratio.”

Dirks goes on to report, “We were pretty much an orphan during those first few years and housed in very crowded conditions in an upstairs room of the old library. Dirks goes on to say, “The computer lab and tutor lab came into being around 1995, which reflects the changed attitude that the college now has towards the importance of the grant.” The area was remodeled again during the summer of 2016 and has become a hub of student activity.

Dirks describes SSS as playing a key role in diversity development in the 1990’s–having several sub grants which included a Native American Film Festival. Dirks says, “The festival brought in some pretty neat international Native American stars and directors.  We also had projects which included some fantastic Cinco de Mayo celebrations.  We had an ongoing diversity newsletter and monthly meetings with the tribal leaders and reservation service agencies, and ongoing pot-luck celebrations—–any excuse to get together to eat. The push for improved relations with the tribes really came from our offices, then.  That preceded the college’s eventual commitment to a Tribal liaison officer, a position currently held by Ivan Posey.”

Marilu Duncan became Director for the project in 2001 and continued until her retirement in 2016. Duncan, who has been responsible for multiple diversity activities at CWC continued the program with a climate of acceptance for all students.

Marilu Duncan reports, “Under Jewel Dirks, Student Support Services became the voice of diversity and inclusion for students at the college. SSS is a safe haven for students and honors the richness of the student population. We are who we are because of all of us, not just one person. The flags in SSS represent the respect for all students who have been on our campus.”

For more than a decade, Duncan had been the director of one of the largest and most successful SSS programs in the nation. She has touched the lives of many students and helped them on their path to succeed.  In reference to her years with SSS Duncan exclaims “Oh, I love it! Without a doubt, these were the best 16 years of my life. I love the students, faculty, all of the people I worked with. This program allows students to follow their dreams! I am so proud of my American citizenship and everyone should have the opportunities that I have had.”

Following Duncan’s retirement, Deryle Matland too the position in 2016 as the current program manager. Matland is excited to be part of SSS in its 30 year celebration and believes in honoring the efforts of students, “First generation students often struggle with a dual identity, who they are at home with their family and culture and who they are as students.  There can be a lot of conflict with mixed messages for students. We strive to acknowledge the value and importance of their achievements in education and want them to know that being a first generation student is something to be proud of. When they it make to graduation, we are hugely celebrating their successes and the path they have forged for future generations!”

SSS Staff Quotes

“I just love seeing students succeed! They walk in afraid and two years later they are graduating and transferring to other colleges. It’s so wonderful to see them grow as individuals and do good things with their lives! “

Transfer Coach Paula Hartbank

“The TRIO SSS Mentoring Program provides students an opportunity to work with an experienced peer mentor who can relate to their unique challenges, but has the experience to help them work through these challenges to be successful.”

Retention Coach Matt Myers

“I enjoy working with the tutors and seeing them work with other students.  The tutors are available throughout the semester, to help students build self-confidence and develop skills to be successful in classes.  It is exciting to watch when students understand concepts, are proud of their work and form bonds with other students, by working with Student Support Services staff and tutors.  No two days are alike, that makes coming to work each day even better.

Skills Development Coach Lisa Appelhans

SSS Student Quotes:

“TRIO has been a source of great help since I started in CWC, from the staff, to Deb Starks (one of our counselors), to the tutors. You can always walk in and just talk to someone or get help.  There is always someone that at the very least can point you in the right direction, if not take you where you need to go. They are always happy to help. The tutors are very knowledgeable on their multiple subjects, if they don’t know the answer to a question they will help to look it up so they can learn as well.”

Student Crystal Santor

“Student Support Services, a.k.a. TRIO, has proven to be an invaluable resource in the pursuit of my aspirations here at CWC. Truly, I couldn’t have been successful without them; they are a 5 star asset?

Student Alan Morris

“TRIO and Student Support Services has really helped me transition. I am more comfortable and have more confidence going to college. I didn’t really know what I was going to do as far as school and SSS gave me the tools and skills I need. Now I’m able to reach and mentor other students, be involved in clubs, and even have jobs on campus. I graduate this spring and am looking forward to transfer to a 4 year school!”

Student Tapaynga Hill

Top Pictures: Students enjoying the 30th celebration

Bottom Left: Left to right Transfer Coach Paula Hartbank, Former Director

Marilu Duncan,Skills Coach Lisa Appelhans,

back Retention Coach Matt Myers

Bottom Right: Program Manager Deryle Matland, Former Director Marilu Duncan

March Student of the Month

Wyoming EOC Coordinator, Rico Lind-Gonzalez writes,

“The March Educational Opportunity Center Participant of the Month is Tony. He started this semester at Laramie County Community College (LCCC) majoring in Engineering. His future educational goal is to transfer to the University of Wyoming to finish a Bachelor’s degree in Engineering. He is also a United States Navy veteran who is involved in the Student Veterans of America group on LCCC campus. One of the ways Tony plans on using his degree is to enhance his hobby of building and racing drag cars at the speedway. It has been a pleasure working with Tony because of his positivity and extra effort in applying for scholarships.”

February Student of the Month

The February student of the Month is Kristi.  She has been an Educational Opportunity Center participant for three years starting when she attended a community FAFSA Completion Night.  She has worked for the last two years on pursuing her degree in Psychology, seeking specialization in Child Psychology.  She is the founder of the new Northwest College Psychology Club.  Recently, she was diagnosed with Myasthenia Gravis, a neuromuscular disease, which was quite a struggle to get diagnosed.  Prior to this diagnosis, she had also overcome many other personal obstacles.  No matter what she came up against, she met it head on and kept fighting for answers as she does every day in her classes.  Adjusting to her new normal has been a challenge, but she keeps moving forward.

She is a hard-working, non-traditional student who balances life with her fiancé and her 4 year old daughter as well as a job and her studies.  She also has two adult children, Alexis (22) and Timothy (19).  She has maintained a 3.96 GPA, and she is the Wyoming All-state Academic Phi Theta Kappa Winner.  She will be attending the state awards to receive this honor on February 21st, 2018.   She was chosen as the EOC Point Architect’s Scholarship winner this Fall as well.  She is an amazing student and person.  I couldn’t imagine anyone else being a better candidate for these great honors.