Transitions student earns international award

Andrew Carpenter, a city resident and autistic student of Lexington CenterÕs Transitions program, was one of only a dozen people to receive a prestigious international award today in Tampa, Fla. (Photo submitted)

GLOVERSVILLE — Andrew Carpenter, a city resident and autistic student of Lexington Center’s Transitions program, was one of only a dozen people to receive a prestigious international award today in Tampa, Fla.

Carpenter, the 20-year-old son of Tim and Esther Carpenter of Gloversville, was due to receive the award this morning.

“It’s a great accomplishment,” father Tim Carpenter said Thursday. “I think it’s the fact that he doesn’t think he can fail.”

Andrew Carpenter, a Flame singing group vocalist, accepted a “Yes I Can” award from the Council for Exceptional Children, or CEC — a leading educational association. The presentation took place this morning at CEC’s annual Special Education Convention & Expo.

Andrew Carpenter is one of 12 students in the U.S. and Canada to be recognized today by the CEC.

CEC is a professional association of educators dedicated to advancing the educational success of children and youth with exceptionalities. The “Yes I Can” program recognizes the accomplishments of students with exceptionalities in six categories: academics, arts, school and community activities, self-advocacy, technology, and transition. Andrew’s award was in the “transition” category.

“We’re very, very proud of him,” Lexington Center Executive Director Shaloni Winston said Thursday.

She added that she “grateful” for her staff for taking the time to work closely with Andrew.

Winston said Andrew’s mother was “concerned” how the youth’s life with autism would proceed after high school. But she said he is doing very well.

Esther Carpenter recounted Thursday: “I didn’t know what was going to happen.”

“To see him do as well as he is doing is amazing,” Winston said.

Winston and Daniel Richardson, deputy executive director, traveled to Florida – along with the Carpenter family — were present today for the award presentation.

Andrew is a student with Lexington’s Transitions program. According to a center news release, Transitions prepares teens and young adults with autism and learning differences for college, careers and life.

“This demographic often needs extra preparation before they can live independently and achieve success in higher education and careers,” the release said. “Transitions developed a curriculum crafted from evidence-based programs and grounded in internationally recognized approaches that will set students on the path toward success. The Transitions curriculum and learning environments are specially tailored to give all students equal opportunities to learn and thrive.”

Andrew was studying communications at Fulton-Montgomery Community College. He enrolled in Transitions after graduating from Gloversville High School in 2015.

The release indicated Andrew says Transitions is “helping him learn a variety of skills to prepare for independent living, including organizational skills, managing money, cooking and social skills, and he has thrived.”

“So many things are different now. I have more friends than I ever had in high school,” Andrew stated in the release. “I have improved my social life and can talk to people with confidence, use the bus, and go to professors for help if I need it. Autism doesn’t define who I am or who I will be. I have so much more to look forward to in my life, and I am only 20. I can’t wait to see what is next for me.”

Tim Carpenter said his son has been “socially awkward,” but has “blossomed” since being involved with Transitions. He said his son receives “unbelievable support” from Lexington. He said that support includes confidence, pride and self-respect.

“We also knew that Andrew could accomplish anything he wanted to,” says mother Esther Carpenter.

She said her son, a Regents student with great potential from GHS, has met many of the challenges in the “real world.”

The release said Andrew has had “an enriching experience” since arriving at Transitions in 2015. In July 2016, he joined Lexington’s immensely popular band Flame as a vocalist after he was overheard singing in the hallway at Transitions. The group, which is made up of people with disabilities, has played on world stages, last traveling to Carpi, Italy, in May 2017 to perform at the 19th International Festival of Different Abilities.

“Everything changed when Andrew enrolled in Transitions,” Winston said in the release. “After just a few weeks in this post-secondary program for young adults with learning differences, Andrew embraced the curriculum and gained a wealth of new skills. Through self-advocacy and leadership classes, he learned how to speak up for himself, advocate for his needs, set long-term goals and identify the steps he needs to take to accomplish those goals. He is a true success story.”

Lexington, a chapter of The Arc New York, is a private, not-for-profit agency providing a wide range of services to adults and children who are disabled in Fulton and Albany counties. Created in 1953 by a group of concerned parents, Lexington is recognized as one of the leading agencies of its kind in New York state.

For more information about Lexington and its programs and services, the public can visit www.lexingtoncenter.org.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at manich@leaderherald.com.