Exceptional Minds Phenomenon Opens Doors to New Facility, New Opportunities for Young Adults with Autism

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The new educational studio offers expanded space and the latest technology for its students with autism pursuing careers in movie post-production, animation and digital graphics, marking the start of an ambitious, three-phase expansion that includes larger classrooms and a new working studio for Exceptional Minds graduates.

Exceptional Minds digital arts vocational school for young adults on the autism spectrum.

We started this school two years ago with nine students. This fall we will have 25 fulltime students and we’ll have 80 students in our summer program, students coming in from all over the United States and other countries.

The Exceptional Minds phenomenon reached yet another milestone on Friday with the grand opening of a new, high-tech educational facility for young adults on the autism spectrum.

The new facility offers expanded space and the latest technology for its students with autism pursuing careers in movie post-production, animation and digital graphics.

“Not long ago this school was an idea – an idea without space and without money. And here we are today,” said Exceptional Minds Director of Operations Yudi Bennett to the 200 friends and supporters who gathered to celebrate the school’s grand opening of its spacious new facility on Riverside Drive. “We started this school two years ago with nine students. This fall we will have 25 fulltime students and we’ll have 80 students in our summer program, students coming in from all over the United States and other countries,” she added.

The new facility marks the start of an ambitious, three-phase expansion that includes larger classrooms and a new working studio for Exceptional Minds graduates.

Exceptional Minds started in a modest office space with a handful of students in 2011 to bridge the gap between high school and the working world for young people with autism. Since then, it has mentored more than a hundred young people with autism through three educational programs, including a fulltime, three-year program centered on industry-recognized Adobe certification to prepare young adults with autism for careers in the digital arts. The vocational school also provides private tutoring and summer workshops for youth.

Now, its new 3,700 square-foot facility doubles the school’s previous student population with three new classrooms, each with new computer workstations for 10 students; a blue-screen room for Chroma keying; a theatrical lighting and staging room; a personal project studio plus web-design room; and a new working studio for Exceptional Minds graduates to begin contract work for companies and movie studios. The new working studio will operate independent of the school year-round for graduates pursuing independent contract work such as 3D film conversion (rotoscoping), visual effects cleanup and other graphics and animation post-production or digital design work.

Among the 200 attending the open house on Friday were working producers, video editors and other movie industry professionals. “In just one year, those (second-year Exceptional Minds students) are going to be very interested in you, and I hope you will be equally interested in them,” said Exceptional Minds Board Member Ron Burns, directing his comment to members of the audience active in the post-production industry.

He also addressed the school’s longtime supporters Bob Stevenson and Neil Young, previously with Ngmoco, and the Riordan Foundation and Kayne Anderson Foundation as well as other supports for “stepping up and turning on the lights to this school.” A special award was given to Tom Von Der Ahe of VDA Properties, who customized the new space at the school’s current address at a reduced rate.

Present for the grand opening was actor Ed Asner, who accepted the academy’s first honorary award named for him in his honor for his inspiration and dedication to the school. The Exceptional Minds students prepared an animated tribute to Asner and presented it to him during the open house.

Exceptional Minds digital arts academy for young adults on the autism spectrum is a 501(c) (3) charitable organization.

About Exceptional Minds (http://www.exceptionalmindsstudio.org):

Exceptional Minds is a non-profit vocational center and working production studio for young adults on the autism spectrum. Chartered in 2011 to provide the training necessary for creatively-gifted individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) who may not otherwise be able to make the transition from high school to careers, Exceptional Minds offers technical proficiency and work readiness training that prepares students for careers in graphic arts, animation, web design, visual effects and rotoscoping. Located in Sherman Oaks, California, Exceptional Minds is both an instructional learning facility and a working studio with hands-on student involvement in production projects, many for the film industry.

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