Niagara Gazette

Features

June 16, 2014

Disabled Newfane graduate faces an uncertain future

Niagara Gazette — Like most young men, Andrew Cooper of Newfane wants to land a job after he graduates. But Cooper isn’t like most young men. He’s severely physically disabled, but mentally very bright.

For Cooper and his family, his impending high school graduation isn’t a joyful event, it’s one that’s filling them with dread.

That’s because once Cooper, 20, is presented with his Regents diploma next week, the educational and many of the physical services he’s been receiving will come to an abrupt end. And although he is eager to work — he has a passion for computers and law enforcement — his opportunities are extremely limited.

His parents, Kathy and Michael Cooper, have been searching for options.

“There are opportunities out there for people with mental disabilities, or with mental and physical disabilities, but there’s not much for people like Andrew who are severely physical disabled but very high functioning mentally,” Kathy Cooper said.

Besides his parents, Cooper’s biggest advocate is Newfane bus driver Sharon Linderman.

Linderman, who has been driving a school bus for 41 years, says that of all the students she’s transported over the years, Cooper is her favorite. That’s why she has started a campaign to help find work for him after he graduates.

“Andrew has a brilliant mind trapped in a useless body. It will be such a terrible shame if he just sits at home with nothing to do,” Linderman said.

In search of job leads for Cooper, Linderman recently called on an old friend, fellow Newfane native and former Niagara County Sheriff Thomas Beilein, who now serves as chairman of the New York State Commission of Correction in Albany. She also called State Sen. George Maziarz, also a Newfane resident, to see whether there is a possibility of a state grant to help Cooper land a job.

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