On October 27, Newsday honored YAI’s Long Island region with a Top Workplaces 2019 award. Long Island, where more than 500 of YAI’s 4,000 staff are employed, offers a full range of services to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) including housing, socialization programs, and vocational training.
Of all the collective knowledge held by experts and direct support staff at YAI, none surpasses the insight and experience of those who know, firsthand, what it’s like to live as a person with an intellectual or developmental disability (I/DD). Because of this, YAI’s self advocates take their role seriously, dedicating much of their lives to giving a voice to the I/DD community through speaking engagements, community activism, and statewide political advocacy.
From the moment they were born 33 years ago, fraternal twins Andy and Michael Platt have been inseparable. For years, the brothers shared a room in their father’s house in Suffolk County, Long Island, and attended YAI’s WAVE day program.
On September 19, participants in YAI’s first-ever Management Development Program celebrated their graduation. Led by experts from Smergut Consulting, Rutgers University, and The National Leadership Consortium on Developmental Disabilities at the University of Delaware, the year-long course was open to senior managers whom supervisors had identified as having the potential to transition into top leadership roles at the agency.
On September 26, YAI Network school Manhattan Star Academy (MSA) held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for its Upper School at 150 Amsterdam Avenue in Manhattan, marking the expansion of the school’s capacity and services. The event, which was attended by New York State Senator Brad Hoylman and YAI’s CEO George Contos, embodied the realization of a decade-long plan to expand MSA’s charter to accommodate students with autism, global developmental delays, and other intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) up to age 21.
Representatives from four of YAI’s leadership groups — our Self Advocates, Family Advisory Council, Board of Trustees, and senior staff — came together on September 19 to celebrate the opening of YAI Headquarters on Manhattan’s East 42nd Street. Nearly 100 people toured the new space and learned from colleagues how elements from its design will help the growing network increase independence for people with disabilities.
On August 28, YAI Queens’ Level II Leadership class celebrated their graduation at the agency’s Dawson Manor residence. For a year, the cohort of eight YAI employees balanced work obligations with monthly, full day training sessions designed to build leadership skills and hone expertise in the intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) field.
Every year throughout September and October each region in the YAI Network hosts events that celebrate the hard work and dedication of the agency’s 2,225 Direct Support Professionals (DSPs). In addition to offering a day of food, music, and cutting loose with colleagues, these events also provide an opportunity for supervisors and peers to recognize outstanding DSPs for their service.
For as long as he can remember, Hal Rubin, 61, has loved softball. Every summer Saturday for the last 15 years, he’s trekked from YAI’s Rego Park residence to Vito Locascio Field in Ozone Park to play softball, the game that first gave him a sense of belonging.
Every year, YAI’s 4,000 employees help more than 20,000 people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) live more independent and meaningful lives. And, every summer and fall, these staff cultivate the next generation of I/DD professionals while demonstrating what it means to be a person-first agency.