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This Remarkable Man Was Nonverbal Until 11 — Now He’s A Prestigious College Professor!

Jason Arday at a PhD graduation ceremony

Some people believe that it’s not enough to achieve greatness in our own lives – we must also hold the door open for those who come behind us.

When Jason Arday was 3 years old, he was diagnosed with global development delay and autism spectrum disorder. Doctors warned his family that his life would never be easy. As it turned out, Jason wasn’t able to communicate effectively for most of his youth.

Growing up in South London, England, Jason didn’t utter a word until he was 11 years old. He also couldn’t read or write until he was 18, yet inside, his brain was continually observing and analyzing the world around him. Being non-verbal gave him time to ponder life’s mysteries and take note of society’s failings.

“Why are some people homeless?” he pondered. “Why is there war?”

Jason didn’t know it, but he was already a budding sociologist poised to change the world and make it more accessible to traditionally underserved and marginalized people.

Meeting college tutor Sandro Sandri, who eventually became his mentor, redirected Jason’s life path. He learned to read and write, then got a degree in Physical Education and became a PE teacher. When he was 22, he started working toward his first master’s degree, penning academic papers and studying at night after working as a teacher all day.

It took many years of rejection before any of Jason’s academic contributions were accepted, but he never gave up. With Sandro’s encouragement, he went on to earn two master’s degrees as well as a PhD in educational studies.

“Looking back, that was when I first really believed in myself,” he said. “A lot of academics say they stumbled into this line of work, but from that moment I was determined and focused – I knew that this would be my goal,” he said, adding later, “On reflection this is what I meant to do.”

As he worked toward his PhD, Jason set a new goal for himself: to get a job working for Oxford or Cambridge. Just eight years later, he has accomplished his mission!

In March 2023, Jason will become a Professor of Sociology of Education in the Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge. At age 37, he is the youngest Black professor in the prestigious university’s history and one of only six Black faculty members currently there.

One of Jason’s goals in his new role is to encourage more representation of ethnic minorities in higher education

“Cambridge is already making significant changes and has achieved some notable gains in attempting to diversify the landscape,” said the newly-minted prof. “But there is so much more to be done – here and across the sector. The university has some amazing people and resources; the challenge is how we use that capital to improve things for everyone and not just a few.”

That requires the right ingredients.

“If we want to make education more inclusive, the best tools we have are solidarity, understanding and love.” he explained.

Jason has already made incredible strides toward his goal of increasing inclusivity in education. We are inspired by his journey, tenacity, and vision for a fairer world for all!

Share this story to inspire the students in your life to never give up.

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