Andrew Carpenter Accepts International Award

Andrew, standing on left, with his family in Tampa.        

Andrew, standing on left, with his family in Tampa.       

Andrew Carpenter, a student at Transitions of the Fulton County-based The Arc, Lexington, NY, today accepted a “Yes I Can” award from the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC).

Andrew was one of only 12 students who received the prestigious international award. The presentation took place this morning at CEC’s annual Special Education Convention & Expo in Tampa. 

Andrew, who is affected by Autism, attends Lexington’s renowned Transitions program and is studying communications at Fulton-Montgomery Community College. He enrolled in Transitions after graduating from Gloversville High School in 2015. 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.

His success in the program earned him the “Yes I Can” award.

 “So many things are different now. I have more friends than I ever had in high school,” Andrew said. “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.”                

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 is in the transition category.

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

“We are so proud of him, as we are with all of our students. Everything changed when Andrew enrolled in Transitions,” said Lexington Executive Director Shaloni Winston. “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. We can’t wait to welcome him home.”


The Paul Nigra Center for Creative Arts in Gloversville, New York is being honored with a 2017 Award of Excellence by CQL | The Council on Quality and Leadership. This award acknowledges their creation of an inclusive environment where artistic expression and diverse creativity can flourish for all aspiring and established artists, both with and without disability. The community-based facility offers classes, exhibits, productions, concerts, camps, workshops, and other enrichment experiences where all participants are respected as artists, actors, dancers, musicians, and aspiring chefs.

Angela Rapp Kennedy, Vice President, CQL; Mary Kay Rizzolo, CEO, CQL; Shaloni Winston, Executive Director, Lexington; and Daniel Richardson, Deputy Executive Director, Lexington

Angela Rapp Kennedy, Vice President, CQL; Mary Kay Rizzolo, CEO, CQL; Shaloni Winston, Executive Director, Lexington; and Daniel Richardson, Deputy Executive Director, Lexington

“The Nigra Arts Center has a genuine attentiveness to each person as an artist. Instead of focusing on disability as being the context for their creation, each artist’s work stands on its own, just as it should. It’s a refreshing approach,” says Mary Kay Rizzolo, President and CEO of CQL | The Council on Quality and Leadership. CQL is presenting five recipients with the 2017 CQL Award of Excellence at the 2017 CQL Conference, themed ‘Blueprint for Person-Centered Practices,’ in recognition of best practices in human services.

The Lexington Foundation, of Lexington, a chapter of the Arc of New York, owns and operates the Paul Nigra Center for Creative Arts. Following numerous Personal Outcome Measures® interviews, Lexington discovered that many people had interest in the creative arts and wanted more opportunities to enjoy and express themselves. This center is unique in that community members take part in program activities, right along with those receiving more formal supports. The Paul Nigra Center for Creative Arts also does not differentiate artists based on diagnosis during juried exhibitions, as there is no reference at all to an artist’s disability. 

“We are most proud to see people with disabilities recognized for their individual talents and abilities by everyone who comes to the arts center.  Every day they are learning and sharing experiences with others who have common goals and aspirations. This has helped them feel respected and to be true members of the community,” said Shaloni Winston, Executive Director of Lexington and the Paul Nigra Center for Creative Arts. “We are grateful to CQL for this honor and recognition.”

The mission of the Paul Nigra Center for Creative Arts is to provide a creative educational resource for people of all ages and abilities while celebrating the arts through classes, entertainment, exhibitions, and special events. Additionally, they are committed to offering accessible art programs for adults and children with developmental and physical differences.