Action Pathways A.S.P.I.R.E. Participants Take a Stand & Make their Voices Heard

Action Pathways ASPIRE Participants Take a Stand & Make their Voices Heard

As the annual Federal Budget process winds down and Community Action Programs across the nation anxiously wait to see how their programs will be affected under the new Administration, many worry that the Administration’s proposed budget cuts will do more harm than good. With a proposed budget cut of nearly $1.5 trillion in nondefense discretionary spending, initiatives like the Weatherization Assistance Program, LIHEAP and other funding opportunities like the Community Service Block Grant (CSBG), which allows flexibility in its spending to help those most in need, are on precarious ground. Action Pathways’ ASPIRE participants Stefanie Clemonts and Cassandra Brand recently took a stand and spoke out at a North Carolina Senate Health Committee meeting along with Action Pathways’ CEO, Cynthia Wilson, telling their stories of how the ASPIRE program and its CSBG funding helped change their lives.


Here is Cassandra’s story:

Cassandra Brand is a 51-year-old woman that currently resides in Fayetteville, North Carolina. She first moved to Fayetteville back in 2015 after relocating from Texas with only a suitcase full of clothes. She calls it, “My transition in life.” Looking for a way out of her sorted past and an opportunity for a better future, she moved to Fayetteville looking for new beginnings. Having heard about the ASPIRE program from a successful participant, her own daughter, she decided she would apply and start her journey of self-empowerment.

“ASPIRE is a very resourceful program” says Brand. “It helped me with finding food, budgeting and personal finance.”

2017 May 24 NC Senate IMG_1260 (2).jpgBrand entered the program knowing that she wanted to be a life coach. Having endured and survived so much in her own life, she knew that she would have the experience and empathy to help impact others. With this goal in mind, ASPIRE helped Brand to obtain her High School Diploma, Peer Support Certification and find employment. Of course, there were trials along the way, testing both her conviction and her faith. For instance, Brand recounts her struggles of going to her first interview.

“I was having car issues and did not have the money to fix it. ASPIRE made sure I had what I needed to get to my interview,” she explained.

ASPIRE is a program that takes a holistic approach to helping individuals and families rise out of poverty and accomplish their life goals. ASPIRE participants are carefully selected for enrollment  and are given two years of unrelenting support in helping them achieve personal, as well as, professional success.

“Support and guidance is so important,” Brand says. “ASPIRE gives you two years of support! What [other] program does that?”

She continued on, “[ASPIRE] makes an investment in people; they are not just spending money. I have never had anyone to believe in me like ASPIRE did. [The program] changed my life, inspired me to strive for greatness and most all, it inspired me to be myself.”

-          Cassandra Brand, ASPIRE participant


Here is Stefanie’s story:

Thirty-four year-old single parent Stefanie Clemonts moved to Fayetteville five years ago. Her brother, a member of our country’s armed forces, was being deployed and needed someone to take care of his home while he was away. Stefanie, ready for a change of pace, eagerly jumped at the chance and moved her and her children here to Fayetteville. She found a job with Wal-Mart shortly after arriving but soon realized that her brother’s home was not an appropriate place to stay for her children. After relocating, she learned that her brother’s orders had changed and he was no longer being deployed. Living with her brother for a short period of time, Clemonts soon discovered that her brother was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It was then she realized she needed to move herself and her kids away for their own safety. New to the area, just starting work and having no money saved, she also knew she was in no position to do so. Luckily, she heard about the ASPIRE program from the coach of one of her children and then made the decision to apply.IMG_1264 (1).JPG

“I went in scared to death,” recalls Clemonts. “We were basically homeless and had to find a place to stay, but I was scared of what people would say and the judgments they may have.”

Like most of us, Stefanie was initially afraid to ask for help but, hesitantly, applied to ASPIRE. Although she expected to get some kind of help, she was amazed at the overwhelming support she found.

“They helped me with the down payment to my place!”she exclaims.

ASPIRE works to support an individual in a way that affords them the space to grow and succeed both personally, as well as, professionally. Finding a place to live empowered Clemonts to focus on other priorities, and better still, other goals. Moreover, she was able to obtain her GED and several other certifications in career-oriented areas, including phlebotomy.

“ASPIRE not only gave me support when I needed it, they also provided me the tools I needed to succeed well beyond the program,” Clemont explains. “When I first came to Fayetteville, I was broken. I’ve always had this spark in me, but I didn’t know how to get it out. Now I’m off of public assistance and well on my way to becoming an entrepreneur.”

-          Stefanie Clemonts, ASPIRE participant


For more information on the ASPIRE program, contact: (910) 223-0116, option 1. You can also learn more by visiting: