In Denver during the fall of 1976, personnel from the forty-eight TRiO programs in Federal Region VIII contributed $2 each toward the expenses of a committee whose purpose was to organize a professional organization. That night, a group of the faithful gathered in a hotel room to come up with a name for the new association. After numerous suggestions that produced unpronounceable acronyms, “Association of Special Programs in Region Eight — ASPIRE” was chosen.
TRiO was less than 10 years old, and was administered entirely through the regional offices. Project personnel had been unaware of the forces that influence funding for their programs, but slowly began to realize the need for a coordinated national effort to effect funding, to communicate about issues, and to provide training. ASPIRE was joining an emerging movement among TRIO personnel nationally.
In 1977, ASPIRE organizers disseminated “News Flashes” that contained information about efforts of TRiO personnel in obtaining the FY 1977 increase and encouraged project personnel to write letters and support the effort for the increase in the FY 1978 appropriation. In addition, three proposal writing workshops were held, and ASPIRE mounted its first conference in Park City, Utah in October.
Much has transpired in the years since. The Association of Special Programs in Region Eight is now ASPIRE, Inc. It has matured into a professional organization serving over 500 staff members in 127 projects. ASPIRE continues to support its members with professional development, timely information relating to national issues, and its members advocate at the state and national levels on behalf of our programs and participants.