I started my life a little prematurely, 15 weeks premature to be exact, and as a result I was born with a disability called Cerebral Palsy. What most of society needs to know is that CP could be a physical disability, not a mental one. That is why I have no mental challenges, but when people first meet me they just assume that I do. And you know what is said when people assume. As soon as my parents found out that I was born with CP they immediately started to find the therapists that I would need to help me become independent in life. From the age of 1 to 18, I had some form of therapy either physical, occupational, or speech therapy, or sometimes all of the above. As I was growing up, I do not know who it was harder on me or my parents. They made me do everything myself even if it caused me pain and sadness. It was hard for me to understand my parents tough love approach but looking back they just did not want me to rely on anybody, but myself. In hindsight, I am very grateful the way my parents raised me. Even though I was a child with special needs, neither my parents nor my three brothers ever treated me that way.
From the age of 3 to 7 I attended the UCP center of Nassau County, it helped me a lot with my physical needs, and to prepare me to start doing things on my own, however they fell short challenging me mentally. They group children on their physical need alone. When my mother saw that, she took me out of UCPN and fought hard to get me registered in our school district. Since I was one of the first special needs children in the district, the administration did not know what to do with me. As a result, the first year that I attended the elementary school, I was in a self contained class for all subjects except mathematics. The following year, at the beginning of the third grade, I was mainstreamed for all subjects, except Physical Education and that continued through out the rest of my Primary and Secondary education. Even though I was mainstreamed through out my education, I still received my therapies and other considerations that I needed. For the most part my education experience was good, classmates were mainly friendly, but there were still times I felt alienated. When I was in my junior year in high school, I really felt so alone and I did not feel that things would ever change. As a result, I proceeded with an attempt to take my own life. Fortunately, you can see my attempt was a failure and that I am grateful for that because I have a passion for speaking about my life.
After a little rough spot in my life, I continued my under graduate education. During this time I embraced my disability and started to use my humor more and more as an icebreaker when I got to know people and when they took the time to know me. For example, when professors made believe that they understood me, but in all reality they did not, I just look over to my friend in class and we just tried not to laugh. My undergraduate education ended at Stony Brook University with a BS in Business Management and Economics.
With the time constraints that I had with my speech, I figured the most concise way to let people know what it is like to live with a disability is to talk about my educational experience. However, there is much more about me that I did not get to share with you today. I am sure with the little bit I just shared some people would be impressed or whatever, but for me I just see myself as a unique man, who happens to have a disability, that makes most of his life the best way he can. By being here as an advisor and a presenter for the Speaker’s Bureau and an advisor for our FREE to Be GLBT group, I hope I can show you that anybody can be a leader. I am proud of the road I took up to this point and looking forward to see where this road takes me. I truly believe that everything happens for a reason.
I started my career at FREE in February of 2004 in the Accounting Department. I spent my first year of my employment as a Data Entry person. After showing that I could do so much more, through the years I had a lot of different responsibilities. At one point in time I handled all of our billings for our Medicaid and State funded programs, making sure that our residents were getting their benefits and PNA correctly, and ensure that the billing for our Charter and Preschool was done in a timely manner. Currently (since August 2016) I am a part of our Treasury Department. As part of Treasury, I help manage our cash flow to ensure our fiscal viability now and for weeks/months ahead.
As an Employee of FREE, I gave me opportunities outside of the office. I have been volunteering at most of our fundraising events. Although I never received services from FREE, I feel that it is important for our supporters to see someone that is differently abled giving back. Also, I was able to speak in front of college students who wants to get into this field and other organizations (this is where my above speech came from).
-Anthony Urbano, FREE Employee