Young man spraying flowers with water

Climbing the Career Ladder at Developmental Disabilities Institute

After serving in the Marine Corps and developing a trade as an office machinist repairman, Andrew realized quickly that his skillset was becoming obsolete as more computers were replacing typewriters in the workplace.  Andrew worked at the Brentwood Movie Theater, which is where he learned some of his earliest management skills. Andrew was ready for a change and started his career at DDI.

“After a time is another time” are the words of wisdom Andrew has lived by.  He credits his mother, Evadine, for instilling a strong work ethic and get-it-done attitude in him at an early age.  Born in London, England, Andrew and his family came to the United States when he was 11 years old.  Settling in Brooklyn, New York, Andrew recalls walking his sisters to school and then heading on to the school he attended.  “My mother was a hard worker and always had two jobs, so I became a caretaker for my younger sisters.  Its family and it is just what you do.”

As a substitute driver at DDI, this work ethic shined through.  Andrew was a coveted substitute driver because between runs he would wash and vacuum the vehicle assigned to him, and the lead driver would find it in tip-top shape when he returned it.  Andrew believes “No matter what job you have, be the best you.” Over the next several years Andrew’s dedication and hard work landed him a promotion to a lead driver and then a dispatcher.

Today, Andrew serves as DDI’s Director of Transportation services with a fleet of over 190 vehicles, several transportation contracts with the local public schools and more than 75 employees. Peter Michaelsen, Assistant Superintendent of Finance and Operations at the Copiague School District, stated, “The level of customer service has been exemplary from the DDI driving team including the administrative and clerical staff.  I would recommend the Transportation Services offered by Mr. Brathwaite and the DDI Transportation department without exception.”  Andrew’s department also provides training, education, and oversight to over 850 of DDI’s staff members who hold driving positions as well.  Lead Driver Jacqueline Ocasio shared, “I have worked with Andrew for 25 years, and I consider myself lucky to work with such a down-to-earth director.  He understands situations that occur in people’s lives and reminds us all that we are a team.”

Group photo from transportation

Pictured from left to right:  Andrew Brathwaite, Merv Sanchez, Jeanee Ratzch, & Webster Morris

When asked what has kept him going at DDI over the past 32 years, Andrew said, “It’s the little things that you accomplish on a daily basis.  When we receive a call about a person who has lost their transportation privileges from their regular carrier and within days we are able to successfully transport this person to their school or work site with independence and dignity it’s a win for everyone.”  Lori Just, Program Manager at DDI’s Lake Avenue location, shared, “I have personally witnessed Andrew be a strong advocate for not only the individuals we serve but also the staff.” 

Andrew has also credited his success to his supervisors for being given a chance and being trusted to do new things.  He recalls most of his training being discussion based.  “My boss took me under his wing, and when we met he would ask, “What’s our mission? What can we improve?”  He recalls the most powerful advice he ever received from his boss early in his career was “You can’t lead from an office.  Be out there, see and help people, and be patient.”  Andrew has continued to manage with these words.  He connects with all of his employees through daily interactions and annual one-on-one meetings to stay connected to his team members’ needs, goals, and aspirations.  Natalie Block has served as a driver at DDI for four years and said, “Andrew enjoys learning the staff’s likes, dislikes, hobbies, and goals.  He has an open-door policy that invites us to voice concerns or share positive experiences.”

Staff retention is a challenge for nonprofit providers like DDI.  When asked about his role in promoting staff retention at DDI, Andrew stated, “Retention happens when we trust people, work as a team, and help one another.”  Andrew takes his responsibility of advancing DDI’s mission to help children and adults with autism and other developmental disabilities experience personal growth and fulfillment as a top priority.  Andrew believes this is accomplished through leading by example and having ongoing conversations with the team.  Akin Elegbe, Adult Residential Services Assistant Director, shared, “Andrew has a gift of compassion, yet, at the same time, he is strong and resolute.  Mr. Brathwaite has enriched other employees of this organization and me by his presence.”

Andrew resides in Brentwood, New York with his wife Kim and enjoys spending time with his children and grandchildren, Andre and Adrian.  With a smile ear to ear, Andrew describes how he spent his most recent weekend with his grandson Adrian who is seven months old. “I was singing the alphabet song probably over fifty times because my grandson would belly laugh and it was just the best feeling ever.” 

At home or work, this is Andrew.

His extreme care and desire to help people become the best they can be is part of who he is. Thank you, Andrew, for all of the tremendous contributions you have made and continue to make in the lives of those around you every day. You are truly a person inspired by purpose, and we look forward to your future accomplishments and wish you lasting success here at DDI.