As the days are getting darker and doom and gloom seems to be prevalent in the news, stories of triumph in the face of adversity serve as a balm to soothe our soul. This story of Jason Arday began with trials, but he defeated the biggest odds and achieved his dream of becoming a professor at one of the top universities in the world and opening the doors for more students in the same situation.

More Info: Cambridge University

Jason Arday just became the youngest Black professor at one of the most prestigious universities in the world

Image credits: Solent University

Do you ever get that feeling that you’re meant for something great? Be it climbing a mountain or opening the best pastry shop in town? Jason Arday believes in destiny as well. “I knew I was destined to do something,” he said in an interview. “But I didn’t know it’d be this, admittedly.”

It’s no wonder Jason struggled to imagine the life he has now, working as the youngest Black professor at the University of Cambridge at the age of 37. Before that, he was a professor at other prestigious universities such as Glasgow and Durham universities, published three books, and somehow found time to raise more than £5m by doing charity work.

But it isn’t just academic success and rainbows – Jason shared that he has barely slept over the past 15 years. Alongside lecturing, he was also employed at Sainsbury’s supermarket and prior to that, he was a late-night cleaner, scrubbing toilets. But he knew this wouldn’t last forever: “I had a mantra I used to say to myself: ‘It won’t always be like this’.”


Image credits: Tim Alex (not the actual photo)

The young professor had a difficult start in life: he grew up on a council estate in London to immigrant parents. He shared that many of the people he grew up with are either “dead or in prison”. That’s a pretty bleak image.

At the age of 3, he was diagnosed with global development delay and autism spectrum disorder. Doctors told his family that he would face many difficulties in the future and life would never be easy.

Little Jason wasn’t able to communicate for most of his childhood. When he was four, he was taught sign language and spent thousands of hours doing speech therapy. His mom never stopped believing in him and used music and lyrics to help him understand the flow of words.

Jason was nonverbal until he was 11, using sign language to communicate. His mom used music and lyrics to help him learn to speak

Image credits: NBC News

“The experts made some pretty bleak diagnoses about how I would have to be in assisted living,” Jason recalled. One day, something clicked, and Jason uttered his first words. “On that fateful day, I said hello.” Soon, he started speaking and stopped using sign language as his primary form of communication.

At the age of 18, he finally learned to read and went on to earn a degree in Physical Education with the help of his mentor Sandro Sandri who always believed in his young pupil and encouraged him.


“Up until a year ago, he would text me every day and say: ‘You’re great. You’re going to do some great things.’ He really believed in repetition,” Jason shared. “The only promise he ever made me make was that whatever he did for me, I’d do the same for someone else.”

Image credits: NBC News

At 18, he finally learned how to read and write, and went on to pursue higher education. Just four years after he became literate, he went on to work on his Master’s degree

Image credits: NBC News

With Sandro’s encouragement and support, Jason earned himself two Master’s and a PhD in educational studies. While doing his PhD, Jason set himself a big goal to work towards. The young academic wanted to lecture at a prestigious university like Oxford or Cambridge. Little did he know that not even a decade later, he would achieve his wild dream.

At the age of 37, he is the youngest Black professor in Cambridge’s history. The professor’s new goal in life is to encourage more representation of ethnic minorities in higher education and ensure that everyone has a fair shot at receiving a top quality education.


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

He fondly remembers his mentor, who was there for him: “The only promise he ever made me make was that whatever he did for me, I’d do the same for someone else”

Image credits: NBC News

Now, Jason works towards improving opportunities and better representation of ethnic minorities

Image credits: Cambridge University

When asked about his own destiny, Jason doesn’t believe that his work in academia will be the thing that he will be remembered for.
“The things that have always had meaning to me are the things I do that serve the greater good, the selfless acts.”

“With humility, faith, hope and love, anything is possible,” Jason shared hopeful insights for the future.

It is refreshing to see that despite his tremendous achievements, Jason remains humble. Hopefully, his incredible journey will inspire other people to work hard towards their dreams and to never give up. Don’t be afraid to wish upon a falling star – who knows, maybe in ten years, you too will achieve your wildest dreams just like Jason did.

Comments were full of love and praise for the young professor