LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – One hundred students from across the country celebrated the conclusion of the 12th annual Disney Dreamers Academy with Steve Harvey and Essence magazine, with an emotional commencement ceremony featuring inspirational speeches by Walt Disney World Resort President George A. Kalogridis and television-radio personality Steve Harvey.
The teens, called Disney Dreamers, were selected from among thousands of applicants to participate in the four-day, educational mentoring program at Walt Disney World Resort.
Participants from Texas included Ian McKenna Goncalo from Austin, Lucas Davis from Cibolo, Frances Rangel from El Paso, Charlye Jackson from Houston, Gavin Wiltshire from San Antonio and Hanah Lopez from Schertz.
Since its inception in 2007, more than 1,200 students have participated. Students are inspired to discover new career opportunities, pursue their dreams and interact with participating celebrities and motivational speakers.
“This is among the most rewarding events we host at Walt Disney World,” said Tracey D. Powell, Disney Parks and Resorts vice president and Disney Dreamers Academy executive champion. “Seeing firsthand how these teens are impacted over the course of a few days is an incredible experience and reminder of why we remain committed to this event.”
The academy is an important part of Disney’s commitment to helping the next generation of young people by inspiring them at a critical time in their development. Themed “Be100,” it encouraged teens to be positive, to be “all in,” and to carry what they learn back with them so they can achieve their full purpose and make a difference in the lives of others.
Along with a parent or guardian, each Disney Dreamer received an all-expense-paid trip to the resort where they learned important networking skills, participated in hands-on career workshops and created fun memories to cherish for a lifetime. Highlights included:
• Participation in the iconic Magic Kingdom parade, where Dreamers served as honorary grand marshals.
• A Dumbo-themed welcome party before viewing Walt Disney Pictures’ Dumbo.
• Career-oriented workshops that provided students with hands-on experiences.
• Interactions with professionals highlighting career paths ranging from medicine to entertainment to engineering and more.
• Networking and dress for success sessions.
• Mentoring by Walt Disney World executives, Essence executives and other top professionals.
• Motivational presentations and tips to help teens and their parents achieve success.
• Celebrity panels, featuring Marcus Scribner (ABC’s Black-ish), Ruth Carter (Academy Award-winning costume designer for Black Panther), Miles Brown (ABC’s Black-ish) and JD McCrary (voice of young Simba in Walt Disney Pictures’ The Lion King, opening July 19).
• Opportunities to make memories in the Walt Disney World theme parks.
“After engaging face-to-face with these 100 teens, I am amazed by the amount of talent and potential they’ve demonstrated,” said Michelle Ebanks, chief executive officer of Essence Communications Inc. “At Essence, we embrace the mission of inspiring the next generation of leaders and expect this group to take what they learned at Disney Dreamers Academy and share it with others in their communities and beyond.”
Applications are now open for the 2020 event, which will take place next March at Walt Disney World. High school students ages 13 to 19 can apply at DisneyDreamersAcademy.com. Students apply by answering a series of essay questions about their personal stories, the influential people in their lives and their dreams for the future. The final 100 participants are selected by a panel of judges.
“My hope is these Disney Dreamers realize there are no limits to what they can achieve,” said Steve Harvey, a longtime partner. “All the amazing people they had the chance to hear from this weekend had to start somewhere, and I am excited to see where the dreams of these 100 students take them.”