The Walt Disney Company donated $1 million to the Special Minds non-profit

By | October 24, 2022

As part of The Walt Disney Company’s Future Storytelling initiative, the company has committed to making a $1 million multi-year grant that will impact the boundaries of technology and the curriculum of Unique Minds, a nonprofit and creative arts academy for adults with autism.

“At Disney, we recognize the importance of investing in skill-building opportunities to prepare young people for storytelling careers,” said Jennifer Cohen, executive vice president of corporate social responsibility at The Walt Disney Company. “As part of our Disney Future Storytellers initiative, we are honored to be able to work with exceptional minds to help their neurodivergent talents develop their technical and artistic skills at our renowned academy and training studios.”

The announcement was made on Oct. 22 at the Special Minds “Decade of Impact” event, in Legends Plaza on the Walt Disney Studios Lot, next to the giant Seven Dwarfs in the Group Disney Building. Disney has been a sponsor of the night since 2014 in partnership with Exceptional Minds.

“It’s certainly a transformational investment in our infrastructure — one that will no doubt allow us to continue to bring career-ready talent to The Walt Disney Company and prepare our artists in a truly meaningful and profound way.” David Siegel, CEO and CEO of Special Minds, spoke Difference.

Siegel said he’s excited to see some of the funding go toward virtual production space exploration, such as teaching students how to make real-time 3D tools. Students advance the landscape of this field by training in programs such as Unreal engine and SpeedTree.

“I know we’re working to get our 3D department off the ground. I can really see the grant money going toward getting the good machines and good programs we need for our 3D work,” said Exceptional Minds student Thomas Harmonson, who works as a junior lead in the Exceptional Minds VFX studio.

But Harmonson said he really hoped the money would go to him DifferenceHe is recruiting more alumni to work in the academy and studio. In his current position, he has had the opportunity to work on films such as “Avengers: Infinity War” – he hopes to one day become a supervisor of the company.

Similarly, third-year student Charlotte Snare landed a job with Special Minds as social media manager — a position she was offered after she applied to create a TikTok account for the program. Beyond her academic work, her impact on Exceptional Minds can be seen in her key role in helping to pull together the 10-year anniversary celebration. She compiled the guest list, sent emails and even created the promotional logos used to promote the event.

“I feel like a proud mom, ‘Oh my God, I did that!’ I feel like,” Snare said after the official program, reflecting on the event.

The evening was full of surprises, including a touching moment with Dia Lawrence; Various The Chief Operating and Marketing Officer was given a special hero award for more than five years of philanthropic service to the program. Difference It was the media sponsor of the event and has partnered with Exceptional Minds since 2018.

“I had no knowledge of this,” Lawrence said after receiving the award. “I thought I was going to go up and talk about the Alumni Association.”

Special Psychiatry student Kate Jorgensen was surprised to receive an honors certificate of completion from the program even though she went ahead to pursue a job on Nick Jr.’s show, “Santiago of the Seas.” Since leaving Exceptional Minds, Jorgensen is now a production coordinator on the series, while also leading efforts to form the show’s alumni association.

“I had no hope and I had no faith; I had no hope for my future, I had no faith in myself,” Jorgensen said candidly. “I went to Exceptional Minds and he restored them both and others.”

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