Through Thick and Thin

Young man reflects on life-changing experience at Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch

Through Thick and Thin

You may remember Cain Kaiser. We featured him in the Winter 2016 issue of Ranch Voice, and he spoke at one of our Arizona luncheons about his Ranch experience.

Cain and his mother, Dawn, recently stopped by with treats to celebrate his five-year anniversary from the day he was admitted to Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch. It's always delightful to visit with Cain because he is such a direct communicator.

Cain came to the Ranch in 2016 after spending some time in a Minot psychiatric hospital. When he completed treatment and was able to go home, his parents enrolled him in the Day Program so he could continue his education at Dakota Memorial School. For an entire school year, Cain's parents, Dawn and Kevin, drove him 70 miles (one way) to school, because at DMS he experienced the only success he'd ever had in school.

In 2016, Cain said, "My experience at Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch was really interesting. They have nice residents, nice staff, and nice teachers at Dakota Memorial School. This school is the best school I've ever been to. The teachers are nice, and I got good grades. Actually, I never really liked school, but Dakota Memorial School changed my life."

After Cain's freshman year at Dakota Memorial School, he transitioned back to public school, graduating in 2020 from Beulah High School. The social skills he learned at the Ranch, and the constant support of his parents, helped significantly at his new school.

"Because I'm autistic, it was hard to make friends in junior high and even my grade school years," Cain said. "Getting help [at the Ranch] with social skills and my education really helped me in high school. In Beulah, I videotaped the football games so they could analyze plays, and let me tell you, the guys definitely counted me as part o the team. And man, it's not very often I get to be considered part of the team."

Cain did well in high school, made friends, and learned to advocate for himself. When the pandemic hit and graduations moved online, Cain was asked to introduce the governor at the statewide virtual graduation ceremony.

"They were looking for someone with some type of disability," Cain said.

"Even though autism isn't a disability, they saw it as a special need, so they picked me. I got my graduation robe and cap on, and we ended up doing it in just four takes."

After graduation, Cain enrolled at Bismarck State College. Like every new college student this last year, he didn't have the typical freshman experience. For Cain, who had worked so hard to hone his social skills and make friends, hybrid learning was a real setback. He is moving into the dorms in September and is a little concerned about making friends, as the social skills he learned at the Ranch, and practiced in high school, are a little rusty.

"I'm worried about making friends. I'm not as open as I was in high school," Cain said. "I've kept in touch with a bunch of the people I knew in high school through social media, but it's not the same. I hardly ever actually talk to them."

But as Cain remembers his dad telling him many years ago, "Hang in there because things will work out no matter what."

Cain will go back to the basics he learned at the Ranch and is confident he will make friends just like he did at the Ranch.

"My dad is a really smart man," Cain said. "He is right. It will all work out."

When asked why he stays in touch with people he met at the Ranch, Cain said, "Because I'm a part of the Ranch family. The Ranch made a difference. Thank you for giving me a life-changing experience. The staff at Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch have helped me through thick and thin."

This article was originally published in Ranch Voice: Summer 2021.

Read more stories like this and explore other issues of Ranch Voice here.

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