NTX Magazine Volume 3 - Page 11

feature story nonpareil Institute Without Equal The nonPareil Institute in Plano is leaving its mark as a software company, making waves in the mobile marketplace with apps, but its biggest contribution comes by training and employing people diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. T Crew Members Top row, from left: Amber Rose Tompkin-McDonald, Rachel Boles and Taylor Gerik. Middle row, from left: Josh Benko, Evan Cotner and Trent Riley. Bottom row, from left: Nick Hall, Stephen Cook and Cheryl O’Brien. o say Rachel Boles was skating through life would be very accurate. For hours each day, then-34-year-old Rachel would take to the streets, rolling free and fast on her rollerblades through Plano, struggling to find something to capture her attention and energy. Rachel is still on the move, but today, it is between desks as Rachel fulfills her role as a lab assistant for students at the nonPareil Institute. While Rachel looks like any dedicated manager as she takes questions, demonstrates new ways to do things and makes recommendations to students and employees at the institute, Rachel has struggled through life with the same condition her charges in the lab do: Rachel is on the autism spectrum. “I didn’t know how to keep my daughter from rolling through town. She needed something to capture her interest, and she has found that,” said Nita Boles, Rachel’s mother, who struggled for years to find something to which Rachel could apply her energy. Today, Rachel is a part-time employee of nonPareil Institute, a nonprofit technology company based in North Texas that specializes in training and employing people on the autism spectrum who show an interest in computers and technology. Students are called “crew members” in acknowledgement of the institute’s collaborative, supportive atmosphere and also as a marked differentiator from a typical school. With no tests, no grading and no semesters, crew members can chase their interests, free from constraints and completely focused on their talents. Employment can also be found here in this software company – part-time for 20 crew members like Rachel, who enjoy taking classes and also instructing and assisting others, and five full-time employees who have completed their training and who choose to dedicate their days to making new applications to compete with any other software company. Rachel took a design class in her first year at the nonPareil Institute that uncovered a talent she had for building incredible maps, a difficult task that many developers have a hard time mastering. Not only did she quickly become proficient in the skill, but she also demonstrated a proclivity for teaching other crew members how to master it, making her a perfect match for a part-time “teacher assistant”-type role. Continuing her training, Rachel has now moved into art and produces artwork that astounds her teachers. “NonPareil” means something of no match, no equal. Dan Selec, co-founder and CEO of the nonPareil Institute, a technology professional whose own 9