Rio Rancho man with autism proves to be a star employee

RIO RANCHO, N.M. (KRQE) – A Rio Rancho business owner says one of her employees has a special gift when it canines.

Keoni Angon has autism, but he’s not allowing his disability to keep him from being a doggone hard worker.

“When I was with therapy dogs, they were just very calm and friendly with me. That’s when I got here,” he said.

Just like everyone else, he’s trying to make his mark in the world. It’s something his boss, Tracie Dulniak can relate to. She had a traumatic brain injury.

“As a TBI survivor, I understand the importance of giving disabled people some type of quality purpose. Not just cleaning toilets or mopping floors, a real purpose,” she said.

At the K9 Rehab Institute, Angon is working his first internship. He sought it out after graduating from “Project Search.”

“A place where they teach people with disabilities how to do anything,” he said.

It’s a nationwide program designed to help people like Angon find work after high school. He recently graduated from Rio Rancho High School.

Dulniak was happy to have him join the team, and she applauds programs like Project Search.

“We get too caught up in a label of a disability, and we try to limit people. Same as dogs, we try and label them and give them bad names and we don’t give them chances,” she said.

He said he enjoys working with the pups, but definitely has bigger goals in mind.

“I just want to get a job, so I can get money and actually survive,” he said.

The Project Search Program is a nationwide, year long program that is held at four different locations in New Mexico.