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Monticello Schools Alumnus Reminds us What is Really Important

June 10, 2009

Twenty-one year-old Lee Karasik has one of those smiles that spans from ear to ear. His engaging, friendly manner and happy-to-see-you demeanor reflect the underlying nature of a person without a care in the world. Although Lee Karasik has had cerebral palsy since birth, he will not let it define who he is or put limitations on his dreams.

A graduate of Monticello High School Class of 2005, Karasik has pushed beyond his disabilities to create a life for himself filled with the normalcy that many people take for granted. He works hard, is an independent thinker and is ambitious in his career to reach all of his potentials. Lee Karasik

“I have always been in the mainstream population at school,” explained Karasik, who must use leg braces and a walker to get around. “I have never been sheltered from the realities of the world and I have a lot of the same hopes for my future as other people - I’d like to have a good career, get married and have a family. I also want to help others as much as possible.”

When the planes flew into the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, Karasik was a freshman in high school. That moment changed his life forever. Recalling the sadness, anger and disbelief, he vowed he would dedicate his life to helping others. That began his journey as a volunteer with the American Red Cross in Greater New York.

“I remember being in Spanish class and not understanding why the teacher was crying,” said Karasik. “After everything had been explained, I knew what I had to do. From that moment on, I wanted to help save lives. I felt that if I could help even one person in my lifetime, I could die a happy man.”

Since that time, Karasik has won numerous awards and honors for his good works and dedication to the Red Cross program. He is also a Certified First Responder in the state of New York. While at times his cerebral palsy limits his access to some of the emergency situations he encounters, he has helped many people in his position as a volunteer for the Jeffersonville Volunteer First Aid Corps, including being the first on the scene to help with a diabetic emergency at his place of employment.

Although Karasik has dedicated part of his life to helping others, he still pursues his personal and professional goals. Presently, he is a Communications Specialist at the Center for Discovery in Harris – a place, where Karasik notes, he is “treated as an equal, regardless of his disability.” He runs his own web and graphic design business that allows him to express himself artistically – something he has always loved to do. He is also in the process of creating a web site where he can tell his personal story and extend some advice to others who may be struggling to fit in. In his life, he has experienced many people who have judged him by his disability and the way he looks rather than getting to know him first. One of his goals in creating the site is to demystify some of the misinformation and lack of understanding about cerebral palsy.

“People are afraid of me,” said Lee. “For some reason they can’t see beyond my disability. I want to help them understand that I’m really just like them.”

When asked what advice he would want to share with others about his personal journey, he said, “It’s really important for people to know that regardless of what life throws at you, anything is possible,” - spoken with wisdom by the young man with the sparkling eyes and the unshakable smile.

Lee on the web: www.leekarasik.net and www.karasikdesigns.net 

Photo: Center for Discovery Communications Specialist Lee Karasik, center, on the job with his coworkers from left, Assistant Network Administrator and retired Navy Hospital Corpsman George Nigro and Information Technology Director Dean McManus, who is also a Monticello High School alumnus (Class of 1984).