One of our most prominent and successful alumni is Henry Medina who is celebrating his 25th birthday today, July 3, 2019. He is a graduate of the 2014-2016 College Experience Class. Henry’s family and the program are honoring his birthday as well as his numerous accomplishments with our second entry of Family Corner in which family members have the opportunity to talk about their child in their own words. Here is an entry composed with help from Henry’s father, Dennis, and his stepmother, Lisa!

When Henry was born I only wanted him to be happy and well adjusted. When Henry was diagnosed on the autism spectrum around 18 months old I only wanted him to be happy and well adjusted.

Like most cases, it was not easy and there were many ups and down with leaps in development and long plateaus. Henry was a happy, well adjusted kid at his core, but he had lots of frustrations especially before he developed speech around the age of 6. Henry started to smooth out once he reached about 9 years old.

Me and my second wife, Lisa moved to the suburbs. (Raising a child with autism proved to be too much for my first marriage to survive.) Lisa has adopted Henry while providing a very secure and loving environment. As a result, he flourished throughout the senior year of high school. Smooth sailing is always relative when discussing teenage boys and their hormones, however. I always held massive apprehension about Henry’s post-high school years because I know so many kids gets lost at that point. Lisa and I always just wanted Henry to have a happy life.

Henry is a beautiful, kind and thoughtful boy (I mean man). He is very charming and warm. Henry is incredibly innocent and decent, too. For the most part, he is unaware of a lot of the ugliness of adult life. Henry loves video games and dinosaurs. Henry’s dreams are to have a successful professional life and find a girl.

Lisa found the College Experience at a fair held in Long Island. We were at a crossroads with Henry finishing high school and no solid plan for the future. We had visited a few other programs, but when we met the people at the College Experience and toured the College of Saint Rose campus, we felt confident that if Henry going away to school was going to work out then this would be the place.

We were unbelievably anxious about this transition, but Henry could not have wanted to pursue an independent life with more gusto. He was so excited to begin his next journey. I almost felt a sense of rejection the way he jumped at the opportunity to be more independent. This was shocking to us but with modern technology we were able to grow comfortable about the distance. Henry was great about calling and texting to keep us informed.

I cannot think about Henry without welling up with tears of joy. He has made me and Lisa so proud. Henry is so earnest and decent. He is a true reflection of the strength of a village and a loving home.

Henry lives with a roommate in Albany and works 5 days a week at Pioneer Bank. He is very diligent, and he makes the environment at his workplace a beautiful thing. Pioneer is a special place and they have treated Henry so well. They should be held up as a gold standard for the benefits of showing empathy and kindness towards others. That type of environments breeds loyalty that other companies should emulate. Outside of work Henry likes to workout. He sends text messages about his workout stats on a daily basis.

College Experience Family Corner HenryThe first photograph is Henry with his adopted brother, David the day we dropped him off at the College Experience in August 2014 and the second one I currently use as my screensaver. It is Henry with Lisa at Henry’s graduation party at the College of Saint Rose back in May 2016.

College Experience Family Corner Henry