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Team Helps Kids ASPIRE Toward High School Graduation At Hoag

The After School Program For Interventions And Resiliency Education offered by the Pickup Family Neurosciences Institute at Hoag, received a three-year accreditation, the group announced Wednesday. Teens who complete the program are eligible to receive up to five WASC-approved semester credit hours to be applied toward their high school graduation.

The ASPIRE program at Hoag is now accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) for teens to receive high school credits. Acceptance of credits toward graduation, as well as the number and type of credits granted, are determined by each individual school district and school. This is the first Hoag program to offer a school credit option for teen participants.

“Accreditation from WASC is a true testament to both the strength of the ASPIRE program and the great need for these mental health support services for our local community,” said Sina Safahieh, M.D., board certified in child and adolescent psychiatry and program director of ASPIRE at Hoag. “The recognition further affirms the value and importance of the services we offer to help teens and their families navigate the unique and difficult set of pressures they encounter living here in Orange County.”

Hoag currently collaborates with the Newport Mesa and Tustin school districts to offer the credit program and is expected to expand to additional local districts in the near future.

In response to an alarming local trend of youths in Orange County and across the nation afflicted with severe depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts and other mental health disorders, Hoag launched the acclaimed ASPIRE program in 2018 in both Newport Beach and Irvine to help local youth and families tackle the life-changing challenges of these disorders.

According to the 2018 Orange County Community Indicators Report, major depression hospitalizations among children and youth have increased 99% locally since 2007.

To date, more than 50 Orange County teens and their families have participated in the ASPIRE program and utilized its support, early intervention tools and access to specialists with prevention training that strengthens future functioning for the entire family. While the services provided are reimbursed by insurance, some families can't afford the associated deductible. Philanthropy supports family scholarships to ensure those who need ASPIRE can access it.

The intensive outpatient therapy program is designed for young people ages 13-17 with significant anxiety or depression and who are at risk of harming themselves. Over the course of eight weeks, dialectical behavioral therapy and expressive arts are used to help teens develop and practice healthy behaviors and coping strategies. ASPIRE builds interpersonal relationships through educational groups, skills groups and weekly family meetings, requiring parents or guardians to participate during the course of the program.

WASC is one of six regional associations that accredit public and private schools, colleges and universities in the United States. It is responsible for evaluating the quality and effectiveness of higher-education institutions in California, Hawaii, Guam and the Pacific Basin. The ASPIRE program is fully accredited by the Accrediting Commission for Schools, Western Association of Schools as Colleges as a Supplementary Education Program.

For more information on ASPIRE, visit

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