Program helps autistic teen find job archiving history
The Rapid City Journal - 5/15/2017
PIERRE | Conner Ulmen, now a senior at T. F. Riggs High School, has been spending about four hours a week at the state archives helping to digitize old publications published by the South Dakota State Historical Society under the supervision of archivist Matthew Reitzel.
Ulmen recently completed the project of digitizing the Wi-Iyohi, a monthly bulletin published from April 1947 to November 1970, Reitzel said. Currently, he is working on archiving the collection of Frank Hughes Jr., who was the businessman involved with the early planning of Mount Rushmore, he said.
"I enjoy my work," Ulmen told the Capital Journal. "If I find something interesting I will read through it,"
The job helps satisfy his curiosity about history and computers, he said.
Reitzel said Ulmen's work helps provide valuable online resources for researchers for their studies.
"There are over 2,400 images that he has scanned for the entire run of Wi-Iyohi," Reitzel said.
"We're glad that Conner was able to do it for us," Reitzel said. "Otherwise, it wouldn't be done. We don't have the time for it."
Ulmen, a student diagnosed with autism, got the job with help from his mother, Cheryl Ulmen, who in turn learned about Project Skills - a paid work experience program funded by the South Dakota Department of Human Services to help high school students with disabilities - through her son's teachers.
Cheryl Ulmen said the program has helped her son a lot.
"Project Skills has given Conner an improved sense of accomplishment and confidence in his ability to perform a job outside of the school environment," she said.
Cheryl Ulmen said Conner has learned many things, too.
"He has learned to take direction in learning and improving on workplace tasks, as well as communicating with his boss in regard to scheduling conflicts when things get busy or he has appointments come up. This type of professional interaction with supervisors who are patient and understand that he does not always pick up on some of the common social intricacies of the work environment has been wonderful for him," Cheryl Ulmen said.
Cheryl Ulmen urged other parents to learn about Project Skills when their child reaches the age to work.
"It can play a key role in helping them transition into the next phase of their life. It has certainly been a confidence-building experience for Conner," she said.