Mission alignment is critically important for AHRC New York City when it seeks community partners. Kyle Mendez’s employment at the Museum of the City of New York is a perfect example of effective alliances between three like-minded organizations—AHRC NYC, the museum, and the FAR Fund, a grant-making entity committed to promoting healthy social and emotional development in children and families with a particular focus on people with I/DD.

The Museum promotes the fabric of NYC. The attraction of New York City for most people is the diversity,” said Lucas Hanson, Program Director for Adult Day Service’s Employment Team. “Specifically, diversity means a mix of races, religions, and sexual orientation, but disability has to be part of that conversation too. We’re proud the Museum recognizes that.”

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Finding the Right Fit for Kyle

Tony Angeline, the Corporate Account Developer, had previously tried to find steady employment for Kyle, a personable, energetic young man who loves to help customers.

One of Kyle’s first opportunities was at CVS,” Tony said. “Kyle really struggled—it was a really busy location and he felt he needed to address every customer who came into the store. It made Kyle really stressed out with how hard he worked to attend to each customer’s needs. We needed to find opportunities that were less heavily trafficked.”

Luke, Tony, and the employment team use person-centered methods to determine the best employment fits for the people they support. For Kyle, the group used Pathway to Employment, a program geared towards people without experience who have a desire to work. Interviews are conducted with the person and their family, friends, and caregivers to determine their interests and strengths and then an action plan is created to establish internship/job opportunities.

The bulk of the service after this discovery process is finding the person’s work experiences within those realms of interest to see if its’ a good fit for them,” Luke explained. “It allows us to figure out which environments work for a person and which ones don’t.”

“Everyone Knows and Loves Him”

The Museum afforded Kyle with a number of advantages. It is close to his home, eliminating the need for a long commute. Kyle’s initial unpaid internship position at the information desk allowed him to directly interact with and assist patrons and colleagues at the point of entry. Finally, the Museum loved Kyle’s work ethic and personality so much that they looked for ways to make him a paid employee. That’s where the Far Fund came in, providing funding to the museum so that it could create a position for Kyle.

The Museum has a big education department where schools come into the museum to learn about the city,” Tony said. “Kyle worked as an Educational Liaison. It allowed him to use his knowledge of the museum and his ability to meet people and understand them. He would do other jobs around the museum if schools weren’t in session that day.”

Kyle is currently on furlough from the Museum as it slowly reopens after a long shutdown necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Museum has said they will everything they can to bring Kyle back when possible.

The museum just fell in love with Kyle,” Tony said. “You go into there with Kyle and everyone knows him. It’s a great place for him.”