Variety Joins Exceptional Minds as Exclusive Sponsor of The Exceptional Alumni Award

The award honors graduates on the autism spectrum who demonstrate exceptional character, skill, and digital arts accomplishments.

Variety Exceptional Alumni Award

Variety and Exceptional Minds are pleased to announce the Exceptional Alumni Award and it’s first recipient, Ryan Oldis. Leading into the 10th Anniversary of Exceptional Minds, a Los Angeles based nonprofit academy and studio training people with autism for careers in entertainment. Variety will present the inaugural annual award that celebrates one graduate’s contributions and success in the entertainment industry. An estimated 4.5 million adults with autism are unemployed in the United States at a staggering estimated 84% unemployment rate. Through their workforce training and animation and digital arts academy, Exceptional Minds is changing that.

The first recipient of the Exceptional Alumni award is Ryan Oldis. Ryan graduated from Exceptional Minds in 2020 with an emphasis in animation, storyboarding, and game design. Recently, Ryan was recruited by Nickelodeon where she joins the Santiago of the Seas production team as Asset Production Assistant.

Known for her collaborative work style and her continued ambassadorship for Exceptional Minds, Ryan joins another alumnus, Kate Jorgensen on the team and says, “I am extremely honored to be the first recipient of the Exceptional Alumni Award. It has been a privilege to attend Exceptional Minds and to meet so many talented people with whom I’ve had the pleasure of making connections. Being a part of this wonderful and accepting community has given me the opportunity to work at Nickelodeon with an amazing crew, and I’m excited to see where my career goes.”

The Exceptional Alumni award presented by Variety honors alumni who have demonstrated exceptional character, skill, and digital arts accomplishments following their graduation from Exceptional Minds. This June 11th will commence the 8th graduating class from Exceptional Minds where Ryan will receive her honor. These 11 graduates have completed a three-year program developing their skills in animation, VFX, motion graphics, and game design. They will enter the workforce armed with deep creative skills along with career development and work readiness training. Many graduates continue with a career at the Exceptional Minds in-house studio working with clients such as Disney, Marvel, Apple, WarnerWedia, Nickelodeon, Amazon, Netflix, and Amblin.

The Exceptional Alumni Award honoree represents the many distinguishing qualities that embody an Exceptional Minds graduate, and the character and skills they take with them into their careers. We’re excited that our first recipient, now at Nickelodeon, is Ryan Oldis who brings a fresh perspective and strong work ethic to everything she does. We can’t think of a better way to celebrate our pride in where Ryan and her career is headed,” says David Siegel, Executive Director of Exceptional Minds.

Variety is happy to present the ‘Exceptional Alumni Award’ to Ryan Oldis,” said Michelle Sobrino-Stearns, Variety President and Group Publisher. “We are committed to elevating underrepresented voices in the entertainment industry and are a proud supporter of  Exceptional Minds’ excellent training program.”