ASPIRE Program accepting applications

Penny Belgarde
Special to Devils Lake Daily Journal

BOTTINEAU - Dakota College at Bottineau's ASPIRE program is currently taking applications for the fall 2022 semester. ASPIRE (Action and Support to Promote Inclusive Readiness Experiences) program at Dakota College at Bottineau is a partnership with North Dakota Center for Persons with Disabilities (NDCPD). This project is funded in part by the U.S. Department of Education Office of Postsecondary Education TPSID grant to NDCPD. It is a three-year post-secondary education program for students ages 18-26 which offers an inclusive and supportive environment for students with intellectual disabilities (ID).

Isaac Morfin, a DCB student and ASPIRE mentor says "My time working as a peer mentor was very rewarding. Not only did I enjoy working directly with ASPIRE students, but I learned a lot about myself."

ASPIRE students can attend college courses on the Dakota College at Bottineau campus, earn meaningful credentials, gain employment, and learn independent living and social skills. ASPIRE's goal is to make attending college a reality.

Utilizing a person-centered plan for each student, ASPIRE focuses on personal goals, career planning, and an inclusive education plan to help students learn employment and self-advocacy skills while working on independence skills. Through a variety of supports and partners, ASPIRE collaborates with students including peer mentors, natural support, campus academic support services, and community support. Peer mentors use college students that support individuals in all areas of the program. These roles include academic support, job coaching, social support, and independent living skills training. Peer mentors assist students with integration into an inclusive campus environment and are key to the success of the program.

Penny Belgarde, ASPIRE Project Director who has worked closely with Minot State University's similar program, ASTEP, shares "This program is unique in that it is offered on a smaller campus like DCB, offers support from not just ASPIRE staff, but the entire DCB faculty, staff, and student support. DCB is excited to have this opportunity to provide to students with ID." Students interested in the ASPIRE program start by using the eligibility process. The process may be initiated by the student, parent/guardian, teacher, or other professional (VR, DD). More details may be found on the Dakota College at Bottineau website or by emailing If you would like to speak with a representative, contact Beth MacDonald, Project Coordinator - 701-228-5426, or Penny Belgarde, Project Director - 858-4339.

Penny Belgarde is the ASPIRE Project Director at Bottineau College.