Thayer Academy's second annual Diversity Day offered more than three dozen workshops and one incredible keynote speaker who set the tone for all of them.
"Until I learned to read or write, people thought I had no mind," says David James "Deej" Savarese in the roughly 30-minute documentary "DEEJ" which began the daylong event. The film chronicles Savarese's challenges as he becomes the first non-speaking autistic to graduate from Oberlin College.
At turns harrowing and uplifting, the documentary notes the abuse Savarese received while in foster care, his struggles with anxiety and panic attacks, the support he receives from his family, and his work to make the outside world more accepting.
"Being included is every kid's right," says Savarese at one point in the film. "It shouldn't be a lottery."
The documentary is peppered throughout with the incisive poetry of Savarese, who graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Oberlin in May 2017 with a double-major in anthropology and creative writing.
After the film, Savarese and his mother, Emily Savarese, answered questions from the audience. Immediately after that, Thayer students rose to give Savarese a standing ovation. In the minutes immediately after dismissal, more than a dozen Thayer students walked to the stage to thank Savarese and shake his hand.
The day continued with many workshop sessions on a wide variety of topics facilitated by faculty, staff, and friends of Thayer Academy.
The theme of the Feb. 6 event was "Inclusion through Compassion."
Jenn Welch, Thayer Academy's Director of Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity, shares a fun moment with David James "Deej" Savarese, keynote speaker for Diversity Day 2019.