Congresswoman Nancy Boyda and a young man from Topeka made a little history yesterday when Boyda announced Benjamin Berlin will serve as her congressional page.
Berlin is the first ever congressional page with autism.
He's got plenty of experience. He's worked as a page in the Kansas state capital.UPDATE: Some more information from the Lawrence Journal-World, including a statement from Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi:
And now he's looking forward to teaching the folks in Washington a thing or two.
"I'm really looking forward to my trip, Berlin said. "And I am just looking forward to have fun and also to show, as my mom would put it, the people in Washington that Kansans aren't a bunch of hayfield people."
You've got our congratulations, Benjamin, and we certainly hope you enjoy your trip!
Berlin has Asperger’s syndrome, which is considered a milder form of autism. People with Asperger’s syndrome usually function in the average to above average intelligence range, but often have difficulty with social skills and engage in restrictive and repetitive behavior.
Berlin attended Riverside and Deerfield schools in Lawrence before moving to Topeka. He contributed as a writer to the Lawrence Journal-World as a member of the paper’s Teen Advisory Board.
He has also been through the Kansas Youth Leadership Academy, volunteered with Habitat for Humanity and the Topeka-Shawnee County Public Library, and has served as a page in the Kansas Statehouse, working for Sen. Anthony Hensley and Rep. Ann Mah, both Topeka Democrats.
He was selected for the congressional page program by a board based on an essay, extracurricular activities, character and motivation. The board included representatives from Kansas, Kansas State, Pittsburg State and Washburn universities.
“Ben did not get this chance because he was autistic. Ben got the chance because he was extremely involved, mature and caring, and he demonstrated that to everyone that was around him,” Boyda said.
But Boyda said that as a page Berlin will be able to show others how people deal with disabilities.
In a prepared statement, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., praised the selection of Berlin.
“Congress is committed to ensuring that individuals with disabilities have the opportunity to participate in this historic learning experience,” Pelosi said.