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Apple announced its support for Exceptional Minds, a Los Angeles-based program that helps autistic artists discover their creativity.
The school prepares neurodivergent artists for employment in the entertainment industry through a combination of technical training, hands-on experience, and career planning, using technology provided through Apple’s community grants program. Alumni have landed jobs at top companies like Marvel, Nickelodeon, and Cartoon Network.
“Exceptional Minds is so unique in the way it works with students on the autism spectrum,” said Tim Dailey, the school’s academic dean and director of academic programs. “We want to create a world where a student on the spectrum is recognized for their talents and not the challenges they face.”
The three-year program gives students the freedom and flexibility to learn at their own pace, using a non-traditional methodology that sets it apart from other schools. Apple marked Exceptional Minds along with some of the student’s stories.
A student, Angela Ibarra, always knew she wanted to be an artist. She is in her first year at Exceptional Minds learning how to render motion graphics, participating in figure drawing classes and other creative labs.
“My head has always been very creative — endless,” Ibarra explains. “I thought, ‘I have to put this on paper and make it come to life.’ I draw things and it becomes what it wants.”
Matthew Rohde, a second-year student, wants to start a career in visual effects or motion graphics.
“VFX work is like a puzzle: it’s fun to see how everything fits together and what you need,” he explains. “Sometimes it can look a little complicated, but it’s still satisfying when something looks good.”
In addition to their technical education, students follow three years of vocational training. It includes a Career Realities track that enhances their resumes, portfolio building, career planning, interviewing and other life skills.
Students begin to build relationships with employers through mentorship and internship programs, and those employers begin to learn about their needs or work styles.
“Our artists are learning how to hone their voices so they can get better opportunities and better network,” adds Jerome. “We’re not changing their stories, we’re just making it possible for people to see their stories.”