‘It Begins With Imagination’: Disney Dreamers Make it Happen

By Lynn Jones – Over the weekend, 100 teens ages 13 – 19 from across the country celebrated the 16 year of Disney Dreamers Academy (DDA), educational mentorship program created and hosted by Walt Disney World Resort. Since 2008, Disney Dreamers Academy has inspired 1,500 students nationwide by fueling their dreams and showing them a world of possibilities as they prepare for their futures.

The program aims to broaden career awareness, creating exclusive opportunities for Black high school students and teens from underrepresented communities across America. The impactful program introduced the Disney Dreamers to an array of new immersions designed to continue fostering young leaders’ dreams above imagination, including career building workshops (STEM, graphic design/fashion, education, National Geographic, entertainment, filmmaking and storytelling), networking sessions, mentorship connections and introductions to future professional opportunities at the Walt Disney Company and of course having fun at Disney World parks.

Although each year of the program is special, the Disney Dreamers experienced some star studded surprises such a Grammy-nominated singer Halle Bailey, who will play the lead role of Ariel in  the remake of Disney’s “The Little Mermaid.”  Bailey was the celebrity ambassador for this year’s event.

Additional celebrities and influencers included included R&B singer H.E.R., Marsai Martin, Dominique Thorne,  Jerome Lamar, Misa Hylton, Aesha Ash and Questlove to name a few.

Aside from the career-building and networking opportunities, Disney Dreamers also worked on their interpersonal skills and confidence skills. During the “Put You On” image makeover session, led by fashion stylist and brand architect Misa Hylton and designer Jerome Lamar, encouraged students to stay true to themselves when leveling up their looks.

With goals of becoming an attorney, this year’s Jacksonville Dreamer, First Coast High School senior Cameron West lunged into his selected field for a deep dive with Florida Attorney Lennon Edwards. “We learned a lot in the deep dive. We had a mock trial and learned about attorney client privilege, trademarks and more,” said West. Attorney Edwards eagerly provided the dreamers selected for his deep dive class the exponential truth of the law, its practices and staying focus on their goals.

In its inception, DDA was a program offered specifically for African Americans, now the program is at 50% non-black diversity student capacity. This year, Dreamers were privy to lodging at Coronado Springs Resort, a parade in their honor featuring Disney World characters, empowerment luncheon, visiting Disney theme parks, panel discussions, career deep dives, media interviews and  motivation from some of this year’s celebrity guest speakers. Applications are available in the fall – for more info visit www.disneydreamersacademy.com.

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