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Alumnus Uses Blog And Videos To Spread Awareness For Special Needs Children

Penn State graduate Chris Ulmer has taught the same special needs students at Keystone Academy in Jacksonville, Florida for the past three years, and the impact they’ve made on his life has turned into a passion of his.

In the last couple months, Ulmer began blogging about his students on his website specialbooksbyspecialkids.com, and has posted pictures and videos on his Facebook page “Special Books by Special Kids.”

“When I first started the blog, you’d put up pictures and they’d get 30 or 40 likes for a month or two,” Ulmer said. “And then all of a sudden, they have 5,000 or 6,000. It doesn’t happen overnight.”

After months of continuously updating the blog and putting up countless photos and videos, one of Ulmer’s videos went viral. Since the video was posted on November 15, it’s garnered over 2,000,000 views, and has been featured on ABC news, the Huffington Post, and many other news outlets. In the video, it shows how Ulmer starts every school day by complimenting each one of his students. He tells them how funny, talented, and loved they are, focusing on their abilities instead of their deficiencies.

Children learn to love or hate at an early age.I think it’s time we actively work towards teaching love and acceptance.

Posted by Special Books by Special Kids on Sunday, November 15, 2015

A Philadelphia native, Ulmer attended Penn State-Abington for two years to play soccer. He finished his final two years at Penn State-University Park, and graduated with a degree in Media Effects. Wanting to get into coaching college soccer, Ulmer enrolled in a master’s degree program in education at the University of the Cumberlands in Kentucky, where he was an assistant coach on the soccer team while they paid for his degree.

Ulmer admits that he originally had little interest in teaching, and never really planned on using the degree. But when he began student-teaching, he knew what he wanted to do with his life.

“When it was time to student-teach, I fell in love with it,” Ulmer said. “So I moved down to Jacksonville beach, started teaching, and I’ve had the same group of kids for three years.”

After seeing the progress his students have made, Ulmer decided to use his students’ growth — with the permission of the parents — as a platform to raise awareness and acceptance of children with special needs.

“I’m ignorant to probably 99.9-percent of the things in the world, I don’t know how everything works,” Ulmer said. “Most of society is ignorant to these different disorders. They don’t understand why the kids do the things they do, and in order for them to meet their full potential, society has to take time to really understand and accept these kids. So it was a tall task, but I thought maybe if I put it out there, people will start to receive the message. And slowly but surely it’s happening.”

Even though his message is now being received by thousands of people, Ulmer still wants to continue to raise awareness and understanding. And hopes that one day, he’ll get a publishing deal to turn his blog into a book.

“What I’m doing is what I’m going to continue to do,” Ulmer said. “I’m gonna blog about it. I’m going to spread acceptance through social media. I’m going to continue to teach, and stay in the classroom.”

Just a few years ago, Ulmer was at a crossroads in his life, not sure what the next path would be. His advice to anyone unsure of the next step: Follow your passion, and don’t wait for something to happen, make it happen.

“Don’t wait until the iron is hot to strike,” Ulmer said. “If you have an idea, even if it’s not the right time, just do it…You have to stay persistent. You have to have a goal that means so much to you, you’ll keep going if no one else cares.”

About the Author

Patrick Koerbler

Patrick Koerbler is a senior Journalism major/History minor from the mean streets of Palmerton, PA. His career goals include becoming the Director of Public Relations for the New York Yankees, and co-hosting a Penn State football podcast with Matt McGloin. Patrick is also a ledge, his interests include sandwiches, and his best friend is Andrew Wiggins. For more fun, you can follow him on Twitter -- @GoodDudePat -- or contact him via email at [email protected] Go Sixers.

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