Walt Disney World, comedian-turned-author Steve Harvey and Essence magazine joined forces to host the 5th annual Disney’s Dreamers Academy near Orlando. The four-day event was packed with activities, hands-on workshops, and candid conversations with leaders in areas such as entertainment, medicine, engineering, and culinary arts.
After pouring over nearly 5,000 essays, Steve and a panel of celebrity judges chose 100 high school students based on compassion, leadership skills, and a desire to learn. Those students, along with a parent or guardian, were treated to an all-expense paid journey full of priceless information, incredible opportunities, tons of surprises, and a whole lot of magic. There were also plenty of Disney representatives available at each venue helping to keep things organized and running smoothly.
Throughout the weekend, celebrities, Disney executives, and Disney’s Dreamers Academy alumni weighed in on the power of dreaming. “The most important thing in your life is your dream,” explained Steve, an Ambassador with initiative. “Education is important, but it’s your dream that propels you to get an education. That’s why our dropout rate is so high in our school system today. It’s because we don’t talk to our children about their dreams.”
Tevyn Cole, class of 2008, says his newfound ability to dream big has changed his life. “I remember going to the Japan section at Epcot saying, ‘Some day soon I’m going to go to Japan.’ We were hearing speeches about saying things and making them become real and then that summer I was in Japan.” Tevyn has since spent time in South Korea teaching English, launched School Me Clothing, and will be starting an internship with Disney in May.
This year Disney’s Dreamers Academy provided “Diver Sessions” which allowed students to “dive in” to an intimate Q&A session with successful individuals in their desired field. Producer/director Will Packer (Think Like a Man/Takers) led one of these sessions and taught students how to create their own film concept and pitch it.
During a showcase on Saturday night, the Dreamers had an opportunity to apply what they learned and pitch their idea for the next great Disney film. The inspiration Will provided to the Dreamers ultimately came back to him in a big way. “Being there with kids whose minds are open and who really believe in the limitless potential of me, that was exciting and was inspiring to me.”
An extravagant and emotional commencement took place on Sunday as singer and actress Jordin Sparks (pictured above, right, with Yolanda Adams) surprised the class with the keynote speech and a touching performance. Between the Dreamers, parents, and mentors, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house as the students received their class rings. Reaching its 500th participant, 2012 was truly a historic year for Disney’s Dreamers Academy. Each participant was forever changed by the experience. As Dreamer, Isis Davis of Chicago, IL said, “This helped me realize that anything is possible.”
Want to see Disney’s Dreamers Academy in action? Watch as mentor, actress Regina Hall, gives the Dreamers professional advice during a panel moderated by “106 and Park” host Terrence J.
Plus, check out photos from the event!