by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)
Walt Disney World Resorts, in conjunction with Essence Magazine and comedian Steve Harvey, recently hosted its 9th Annual Disney Dreamers Academy in Orlando, Florida. After selecting from thousands of applications, Disney rewarded 100 U.S. high school students and their chaperones with a four-day seminar (March 3-6) geared towards inspiring, exposing and guiding them on how to achieve their dreams.
After kicking off the long weekend leading a parade down Main Street in the Magic Kingdom and being welcomed by Walt Disney World President George Kalogridis, Walt Disney World Vice President and Executive Champion Tracey Powell, Essence Editor-At-Large Mikki Taylor, gospel singer Yolanda Adams and host Steve Harvey, the Dreamers are immersed in intensive sessions with motivational speakers such as Jonathan Sprinkles and Capital Prep School Founder and Principal Dr. Steve Perry to help them understand how to overcome obstacles, learn from failures and how to work hard to make their dreams become reality.
Additionally, the Walt Disney World theme parks become vibrant “classrooms,” where Dreamers participate in hands-on, intensive “Deep Dive” workshops led by industry experts. Covering a myriad of career paths ranging from animation to imagineering to marine biology, the Deep Dives do more than expose students to a career choice; they bring to life an opportunity that otherwise might seem distant or impossible.
Celebrities such as MC Lyte, Tamera Mowery, Loni Love, Lance Gross, Lamman Rucker, Silento and film producer Will Packer also gave their personal time and shared their knowledge with the Dreamers on what it takes to gain and maintain an unconventional career.
“It has literally been so amazing,” said Dreamer Deja Kirk from Oklahoma City, who is interested in becoming an elasmobranchologist (a marine biologist who specializes in sharks and rays). “I’m not one to be corny at all, I’m usually a very stoic person, so for me to be so excited about this is really huge. Even if you don’t know what you’re going to do, just getting the general exposure to everything I feel like not only am I prepared to pursue my career, if I were to change it in any way I still have a really good foundation for whatever I want to do.”
This week, Good Black News will be bringing you even more stories from this unique event, including spotlights on several Dreamers, perspectives from their parents, as well as interviews with some of the dedicated professionals who gave their time and wisdom to DDA this year.