Transition in Progress

Nate is missing class today. I told Karen, “We never went to all our classes in college.” Sure, my reason was that I was tired or hung over, but still. Nate has a valid excuse: he’s going to help pick out his best works for the proposed June 7 show at the Leonard Tourne Gallery. Then he’s headed to a frame store.

So the move to a post-college world has begun in earnest. Last Friday I met with a representative of a state agency about special employment programs. I told her about Nate, his options in the art and design world, but also the need for some more traditional employment. We discussed training Nate to take the bus to Oneonta to work, which I believe he can do with enough preparation. Having taken him to Cobleskill last week for class, I know he could be dropped off and, on his own, get to where he needs to go. That’s a huge statement.

At the meeting I mentioned that Nate did a job training at Bassett Healthcare as a high school senior. I was asked to get any documentation, and Karen got session notes from school. Set in the spring of 2009, they are enlightening. I’d never read them before.

Nate worked in weekly installments at the Bassett Print Shop. Week one began with Nate  predictably checking out the bathroom. Once settled, he was introduced to his co-worker and supervisor. He was given a desk and some forms to update. His co-worker was unsure of Nate’s abilities, but the Transition Specialist assured him that Nate had some skills. Nate churned out the work with great speed and his co-worker was “blown away” by Nate’s computer acumen.

The notes of this session went on to describe Nate’s other activities, some, let’s say, antisocial in nature. My favorite: “While Nate was typing, he placed his finger inside of nose and then continued to type.” That’s not acceptable? Nate’s school aide told him to stop. He then proceeded to cough without covering his mouth.

As the session advanced, Nate’s aide retreated to the hallway so Nate could be on his own with the Transition Specialist. He was very productive and completed all his tasks in the allotted time, but not without the occasional rudeness, saying “FFFFF,” when everyone just knew he wanted to yell “fuck!”

Nate was more distracted in week two, fiddling with the stapler, acting silly and typing “nipple.” He was asked to stop, but got back on task when his high school aide, who knew him better than anyone, cracked the whip. Again, Nate did all his work quickly. The downside of that was that it gave him more time to lose focus. When he was on target, he did good work with clip art and Microsoft Paint (his preferred program) . His “speed and productivity was exceptional,” according to the assessment.

That’s the key going forward, for Nate to have a supervisor that sees the talent he brings to the table while, at the same time, forgiving his foibles. We all want that, but Nate needs that more than most.

By week three, Nate was relaxed, taking advice from colleagues, though once whining “Noooo” when asked to do something he didn’t want to, or didn’t think of, on his own. One of the great benefits of this job shadowing program was that Nate was told how a job works, that he couldn’t say no to his boss and that, if he wanted to be a designer, he couldn’t tell his clients no, at least not in the way Nate says no. He learned a lot from this experience and by the end, was popular among his co-workers, both for his skill and his personality.

Reading the notes now, three years after the fact, confirms my belief that there’s a place for Nate in the real world.  I’m not sure if he’s ready, or if the world’s ready for him, but, regardless, it’s gonna happen.

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About Jeff Katz

Jeff Katz is Mayor of Cooperstown, the “Birthplace of Baseball” and home to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. His latest book, Split Season:1981 - Fernandomania, the Bronx Zoo, and the Strike that Saved Baseball, (Thomas Dunne Books, 2015), received national attention, with coverage appearing in The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Sporting News and NPR’s Only a Game, among others. Katz appeared on ESPN’s Olbermann and The Sporting Life with Jeremy Schaap and MLB Network’s MLB Now, with Brian Kenny. Split Season: 1981 was a finalist for the 2016 Casey Award for Best Baseball Book of the Year.
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