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Aspire Accessories

Aspire Accessories, a program of The Center for Pursuit, is a work transition program for adults with autism and similar special needs. They provide a solution to what is known as the “services cliff” for this population of individuals once they age out of supported, school-based environments. Their goal is for each artisan to obtain increased independence in a workplace setting and to sustain performance, thus enhancing the likelihood of gaining further meaningful employment. Aspire empowers each artisan to take responsibility for their work, realize their potential, and increase their self-awareness and confidence.

Become an Artisan

Want to become an Aspire Artisan?

Schedule an interview with Callie Strange, Business Manager at Aspire Accessories.

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100% of sale proceeds are utilized to sustain the program
Visit Aspire's online store to learn more about the program and shop the products.


Joining forces with Social Motion Skills

Around the time Wendy Dawson was creating Social Motion Skills, a nonprofit in Houston dedicated to teaching social and life skills to children and young adults with intellectual differences, Denise Hazen founded Aspire Accessories. When her son, Nick, was diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) at two years old, the doctor told her what he would never do; drive a car, graduate from high school, get married, hold a job. The list went on and on.

Fueled and challenged by the doctor’s prognosis, this was the moment Denise decided to prove him wrong. Her son might not marry or drive a car, but there was no reason he could not and would not hold a job. The doctor’s declaration that Nick would never be a contributing member of society inspired her to find what Nick was capable of doing.

Early on, I discovered that Nick had an incredible talent for detail. I searched for ways to grow and encourage this special talent and was introduced to a master leather craftsman, Peter Main, when Nick was 14. Peter apprenticed Nick and taught him how to hand stamp and hand stitch leather goods. Peter was amazed not only at Nick’s interest in the work they were doing, but also in the quality of the work Nick produced. Peter and I realized Nick was a talented artisan, and that nurturing this gift would create an avenue for Nick to perform meaningful work.

In 2011, Nick and Denise founded Aspire Accessories. They began with one product in our portfolio; the double wrap hand-stamped, rivet bracelet. Nick would set the rivets and stamp them and I would set the snaps. Word spread, and Nick’s work began to get noticed. Soon after, they were approached by several organizations to create custom bracelets.

As Denise shared her and Nick’s story with other parents of young adults with ASD, several things became apparent:

This was more than just a mother and son endeavor and there were many parents who, like me, would not accept NEVER The need to offer others an avenue to find purpose was paramount I was passionate about helping this community succeed and I needed to grow Aspire Accessories to provide opportunities for others with ASD. Within a few months we had hired 4 artisans and had produced over 600 bracelets. Nick began taking classes through Social Motion and Wendy and I realized we were working toward a shared mission. In 2016 we decided to collaborate and created the Aspire Accessories work transition and training program for young adults with Autism and similar special needs. By 2021, Aspire had employed over 75 artisans, paying them more than $300,000 in wages, and imparted a wealth of real world learning. Artisans have had the opportunity to create hundreds of designs, use complex machinery, and learn countless new skills. And the program continued to grow!

Joining forces with The Center for Pursuit.

In the summer of 2021, Aspire Accessories, Social Motion Skills, and The Center for Pursuit (TCFP) announced a strategic alliance to bring expanded autism and life span services for those with neurodiversity and intellectual and developmental disabilities through the “Center of Excellence.” As part of this collaboration, the Aspire Accessories workshop will move to TCFP’s brand new Harrisburg campus in early 2022. Aspire artisans will have the opportunity to work in a modern and expanded workspace, and have access to additional health services, programming, and independent living.

“I will never forget the opportunity you given me through Aspire and the skills I have learned. I will be able to use these skills for the rest of my life. Thank you for teaching, guiding, and believing in what I can do.”

“[Our son] has confidence that he has never had and has matured into a very independent person. Denise, I give you and your wonderful staff at Aspire credit for setting him up for success. Thank you and Aspire for literally turning [our son’s] life around!”