By Carmen Glover
For the past six years, Walt Disney World has partnered with entertainer Steve Harvey and Essence magazine to present the Disney Dreamers Academy (DDA). The DDA provides 100 U.S. high school students, aged 13-19, with a weekend getaway at Walt Disney World. During the weekend, participants are paired with mentors and provided with immersion seminars geared towards careers. The career and mentoring events are interspersed with activities which allow the students to enjoy the sights and sounds of the theme parks. Applications are currently being accepted for the competitive program and interested students are encouraged to take advantage of the free, event-filled, enlightening weekend event by submitting their applications before the deadline of October 31.
Representatives from the Disney Dreamers Academy, including Director of Walt Disney World Public Relations Carole Munroe and Public Relations Manager Maria Cecilia Toro, were on hand at Trattoria Dell’ Arte in Manhattan on Wednesday, October 2, to talk about the program and the ways in which it changes the lives of the students who have been participants. E! News co-host and actor Terrence J was a featured speaker at the Manhattan event . He talked about his recent book, “The Wealth of My Mother’s Wisdom,” while sharing the stage with his mother, Lisa Gonzalez,. Terrence J answered questions about his life as well as his involvement with the Disney Dreamers Academy as a mentor and speaker. “The deadline is October 31 so if you know anyone that’s young tell them to apply,” he said. “It’s a genuine program. You will see Steve Harvey with a group of men teaching them to tie a tie.”
Terrence J also spoke about the degree of dedication that Disney has to the DDA. “Disney is very committed to the event,” he said. “After the event we meet and discuss what worked and what didn’t. They meet with the students to find out what their favorite parts were.“ Describing the joy that he derives from participating in the program,Terrance J said: “The Disney Dreamers Academy is so rewarding and fulfilling. This is the first organization I really sank my teeth into with mentoring. I feel that the program benefits me more than the students.”
Brother and sister Zahra and Husain Abd’Allah, 2012 and 2013 DDA alums, respectively, spoke eloquently about their participation in the program. When asked what they have learned through their participation in the program, they brightened and talked animatedly, “I learned that you should never give up on your dreams because dreams are the things that make you who you are,” said Zahra, 18, a freshman at Laguardia Community College majoring in communication studies. “I learned that it’s not enough to learn everything. It’s enough to learn enough to help others,” said Husain, 15, who is taking a public speaking class at Hostos Community College. The siblings, who were both home-schooled and are spoken word artists, excelled in the DDA. Zahra was named Ms Curiosity during when she participated, while Husain wrote an original piece called “Ain’t Nothin’ Like A Dreamer” in honor of his DDA class.
Tanisha Sykes, personal finance editor at Essence, described one of the ways in which the magazine contributes to the weekend’s activities. “At the Disney Dreamers Academy Essence provides a deep dive where we gave an immersion seminar on journalism,” she said. “What I have come to learn,” Sykes said, “is that a dream plus a plan equals success.” Essence, she said, “has been a part of this from the beginning and will continue to be a support.” Zahra said that during her participation in the program she attended a deep dive on health care with Dr Ian Smith as well as the Essence deep dive on journalism. As a result, she said she is considering becoming a journalist. Husain said he met the founders of the Kinsey Collection during his participation in the journalism deep dive. “I learned to hold fast to my dreams,” he said of the deep dive experience. Keeping with the theme of dreams, Zahra said she learned that “dreams are the blueprint of who you are.”
Applications for the seventh class are being accepted through October 31, 2013 at www.disneysdreamersacademy.com. The next Academy will take place over the weekend of March 6-9, 2014. OnPointPress.net