In March of 2011, a group of three founders—Kari Peters, Katie Neely, and Drenda Stack—established a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in Citrus County, Florida, called Aspire Pregnancy and Family Services. Inspired by their Christian faith, the founders saw a major need among pregnant teens in the community that they wanted to fill. They also saw high rates of divorce, domestic violence, and substance abuse plagued the community, but the only abstinence/healthy choices program in the county, known as ABC for Teens, was collapsing. In response, Aspire adopted ABC for Teens, officially renaming it The RIVER Project, focusing on healthy relationships and risk avoidance.
The RIVER Project, at its inception, was created as a community‐based program designed to educate and equip youth with the life skills necessary to develop healthy relationships and quality personal character for the well‐being of the community. Rather than focusing on assisting the community in the aftermath, Aspire sought to meet the community, especially youth, with a message of healthy relationships and prevention before the fact.
In its earliest stages, The RIVER Project reached many local youth, but Aspire’s founders sought further scope and reach. In the summer of 2011, the Citrus County School District approved The RIVER Project programming to be inserted in both middle and high school levels.
With growth and a rise in demand, Aspire looked to gain more outside support. In 2013, Aspire adopted a more comprehensive curriculum from the Center for Relationship Education in order to bolster its programming. And in March 2013, Aspire Pregnancy and Family Services officially changed its name to Aspire Relationship Center. The change in name signaled a broadening of horizons for Aspire.
Aspire began partnering with other prevention‐minded local organizations such as CASA, Eckerd Connect, Boys and Girls Club of Citrus County, and the Anti‐Drug Coalition of Citrus County. Aspire found itself in schools, community centers, council meetings, churches, sporting events, etc.
Over the last ten years, Aspire Relationship Center has strengthened relationships with schools, teachers, students, and many other members of the Citrus County community. Time, technology, the COVID pandemic, changes in education, and many other things have only made the need for healthy relationships grow. Aspire Relationship Center seeks to see youth and families flourish all over the county by providing the education and support they need to practice and experience healthier relationships that lead to better lives.