Location: Queens, N.Y.
Tim Russo had never really known anyone with autism before. But in September 2013, when he was volunteering at JetBlue’s Blue Horizon for Autism event, which lets families with autistic kids experience the airport in a controlled setting, he found himself getting along effortlessly with his fellow volunteer, an autistic teenager named Jason Harris. “We started talking about aircraft routing and pairing,” Tim says. “Just by looking at the tail number of a plane, he knew the name of the plane. That’s what I do for a living—I remember thinking, this is fun!” Russo, who manages strategic initiatives within Technical Operations for JetBlue (No. 454), gave Harris his contact information.
Russo has been in touch with Harris every day since, answering his constant questions about aviation over text and email. “I know it sounds unbelievable,” Deb Harris, Jason’s mom, says. “But they talk every single day about flight patterns and JetBlue.” Now, Harris is taking flying lessons so that he can realize his dream of becoming a commercial pilot. But Russo has made sure to introduce his mentee to the whole aviation world: In April, Russo took Harris and his family on a multi-day tour of the JetBlue headquarters and JFK airport, introducing him to all of the teams that work behind the scenes to keep the company running. “That was a magical day for me,” Jason Harris says. Russo – and many other employees at JetBlue who have gotten to know Jason, now 16, over the years – is working with the Harris family to discuss Jason’s career path, and his promising future in aviation. “This experience has been so uplifting for Jason since he’s at the stage in his life where he’s trying to figure out what he’s going to do as an adult,” Deb Harris says. “Tim has given us strong direction and a lot of support.”