By DAN HEATH
---- — PLATTSBURGH — Support for Kyle Kourofsky, an employee with Asperger’s syndrome, has earned the Town of Plattsburgh recognition from a state agency.
Kourofsky said his employment in the town’s Water and Wastewater Department has helped him as he works to overcome difficulty in communicating with others and in social interactions. The staff, he says, has made him feel part of a bigger family, as well as more mature and responsible.
“It’s like a second home,” he said. “The more they like you, the more they tease you.”
An example of that was on display at the Town Office building recently, when Kourofsky’s coworkers labeled one of the rooms as his private dressing room, complete with a star and his name.
And the camaraderie in the department has really helped him face recent family struggles, he said, as his father, Stanley Kourofsky, is battling pancreatic cancer.
Through support from the town, Champlain Valley Educational Services and the State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD), the young man transitioned from an intern to a full-time employee.
And last week, the town’s Water and Wastewater Department was named Government/Nonprofit of the Year by the OPDD at its Works for Me awards ceremony in Albany.
Kourofsky was pleased his father and mother, Stanley and Sherry Kourofsky, were able to attend.
“My dad wanted it more than anything,” he said.
The Kourofskys were joined at the event by Water and Wastewater Utilities Director Scott Stoddard; Assistant Water and Wastewater Director Paul Wright; Deputy Town Supervisor Martin Mannix; Champlain Valley Educational Services Partners in Transition Coordinator Tonya Robinson; and Partners in Transition Employment Specialist Dave Slater.
Kyle has a degree in environmental science from SUNY Plattsburgh. After graduation, Sarah Gallagher, with the OPWDD, was able to connect him with the Partners In Transition program.
Slater worked with Kyle as he learned to work, developed social skills and identified the strengths he could bring to the job.
That led to the internship with the Town of Plattsburgh. Mannix said Kyle spent time in the Planning Department and Assessor’s Office before he found his niche in the Water and Wastewater Department.
“That proved to be a particularly good fit,” Mannix said.
‘UNDER HIS WING’
During Kyle’s internship, one of his mentors was David King, who died unexpectedly in June 2012 at the age of 48.
Kyle said he really misses him and learned a lot from him about overcoming adversity, as King had only recently learned to read, with the assistance of the Literacy Volunteers of Clinton County.
“He took me under his wing,” Kyle said.
King’s death created an opening in the Water and Wastewater Department, and Kyle was one of six candidates who applied for the job.
Stoddard said a review of the applicants’ credentials put Kyle on top, and he has been a full-time employee since December 2012.
Kyle said the assistance he received from all involved really allowed him the chance to settle in to his new job.
Mannix gives the young man full credit for his success with the department.
“It was our honor to nominate the Town of Plattsburgh Water and Wastewater Department (for the award),” Robinson said, “because they recognized the abilities and contributions that Kyle brought to the workplace, and they made a commitment to diversify their workforce by hiring him.
“The partnership (among) the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities, partners in Transition and the Town of Plattsburgh Water and Wastewater Department is an example of best practice in the employment of individuals with disabilities.”
View a Office for People with Developmental Disabilities video about Kourofsky and the Town of Plattsburgh at: http://tinyurl.com/keze5fe.
Email Dan Heath:firstname.lastname@example.org