David Finkelstein has been a pioneer in the field of Post-Secondary education for young adults with special needs. Over the course of a 50 year career in social work, mental health, child welfare and school administration, David has co-founded seven educational programs including the Vocational Independence Program and Introduction to Independence. David has taught at CUNY Queens College and is a published author. In 2008 he co-founded Giant Step Services. As President, David is involved with admissions, staff development and program implementation and planning. David believes that a strong social life and appropriate community involvement are the cornerstones of growth and happiness. His career reflects a dedication to creating opportunities for individuals with special needs to formulate relationships within their own communities and to build on those relationships to venture into the broader world in which they live and work.
Lauri Alpern is a co-founder of Giant Step Services and the Program Director. With her degrees in Special Education and Reading, Lauri brings over 35 years of teaching and administrative experience in the field to her role as Director. She began her career at the Eagle Hill School in Huntington, NY where she was both a lead teacher and an administrator. From 1989 to 2006, she was an administrator at the Vocational Independence Program (VIP) in Central Islip, where she supervised the academic program. Additionally, she was the Director of the summer program, Introduction to Independence (I to I) for 7 years and the Graduate Living Program (GLP) from 2006 to 2007. Throughout her career, Lauri has also maintained a private practice as a Reading Specialist. At Giant Step Services, Lauri oversees the academic, social, vocational and personal development activities and classes as well as staff development. She believes that, with effective individualized support and services to level the playing field, people with special needs can live rich and happy lives as productive members of society.
Our staff come from a variety of backgrounds and experiences, including education, social work, psychology, business and nutrition. We believe this diversity is an important factor in our successfully assisting and guiding our students through all aspects of their lives, from their academics and employment to social and personal development.