Capital Region BOCES Career and Technical School (CTE) student Michael “Harry” Mansion exudes intelligence and compassion well beyond his years.
The senior from Niskayuna enjoys things most teens his age do – playing lacrosse, listening to music and hanging out with friends. Like his peers, the building trades program student also has his sights set on college in the fall to build upon his career aspirations and create a solid foundation for a contracting career. It’s Mansion’s other future plans that set him apart from many youth his age.
Those “forever’ plans including staying friends with Jonah, a fellow Niskayuna senior he befriended several years ago who has cerebral palsy.
“I am going to hang out with him and be by his side for the rest of our lives,” Mansion said.
When not practicing and playing sports, working or studying, Mansion can be found every week spending three to four days “hanging out” with Jonah.
“We recently went to a Pink Floyd concert and I go over to his house and we hang out and have a lot of fun. We will play games on his iPad and we bowl in his house. Sometimes we go to a bowling alley and he will bowl there with a ramp or we will just go for a walk and enjoy it,” said Mansion, who chronicles his adventures with Jonah on a YouTube video .
It is that compassion and understanding that led Mansion to be honored earlier this school year by CTE administrators and faculty who presented him a “Good Citizen” award.
Mansion said his actions are nothing special.
“Everyone is important. People may have disabilities and they may be different from you or me, but they are people and they have value and deserve our respect and attention,” said the Niskayuna High School senior as he completed his class work in the building trades program at the BOCES CTE Albany campus.
Mansion said he started hanging out with Jonah as a sophomore to provide him some interaction with males his own age.
“He had a lot of caregivers in his life, but they we are all women and I felt it was important to reach out to him,” said Mansion.
But while Mansion’s efforts were initially designed to help Jonah, Mansion quickly realized he was benefiting from the interaction.
“When I feel really upset and I feel like I have nothing else in my life… I always have Jonah and Jonah always has my back,” the Niskayuna senior said. “Jonah is positive about everything.”
Jonah isn’t the first special needs student Mansion has befriended.
“In eighth grade, there was this kid who had difficulty interacting and I just started hanging out with him and going over to his house. It was important for him because he saw me as a lacrosse player and a ‘cool kid’ and others knew I was hanging with him — it helped him, but it also helped me,” said Mansion.
While Mansion sounds like a perfect fit for a career in social services, he aspires to continue working with his hands and plans to attend community college in the fall to continue his education in the building trades.
“I enjoy the physical aspects of the work,” he said.