March 8th, 2012: I've returned to the Disney's Dreamers Academy with Steve Harvey and Essence magazine, this time as an alumnus from last year's class along with three other Dreamers from the past classes to share my story, experiences and big dreams with this year's class of 100 students. This year marks the Academy's fifth anniversary of an amazing program that motivates and inspires students to realize the endless opportunities that are available to them, and start making strides to turn those dreams and possibilities into realities.
Looking at this year's class of 100 students here from all over the U.S., I remember when I arrived here last year, filled with feelings of anxiousness and excitement. While I am honored to be invited back to share my experiences, I am even more thrilled for this class of Dreamers because they are about to embark on what will be nothing short of a life changing experience. I know that this year's class is in for an incredible experience, because at the academy last year, I gained the courage to pursue my dreams, and even found new dreams. When I came to Disney's Dreamers Academy, my primary dream was to be accepted to and attend a great university. I am currently living that dream as a freshman at the University of Southern California. Currently, I dream of one day founding a non-profit youth organization that will travel and put on conferences similar to Disney's Dreamers Academy for young people in inner-city communities.
While the program turns Walt Disney World into a classroom for these young people, it is by no means a walk in the park. Every facet is deep and rich with information and exposure. In fact, Disney's Dreamers Academy takes "deep" to a whole new level, by allowing the dreamers to take part in what the Academy calls "immersive deep-dive" sessions; workshops that pair kids who have aspirations for a certain career path with professionals who are experts in their field, and can relate to the position that the dreamers are in. This year, there are "deep-dive sessions" such as: culinary arts, shoe design, the performing arts, biochemistry, technical engineering, physical therapy, and many more.
Yesterday, the Dreamers Academy alumni and I rode as honorary grand marshals in the Disney Magic Kingdom Parade, joined by this year's class of dreamers, along with Mickey and Minnie Mouse! The pinnacle of the day came at the official welcome ceremony held in Presidents Hall at the Magic Kingdom where we were welcomed by a Disney Ambassador, gospel singer Yolanda Adams, and the head man himself: Mr. Steve Harvey. He told the dreamers to take an introspective look at themselves and explore why specifically they may have been selected out of more than 4,700 applicants. In a humorous yet compelling way, Mr. Harvey drove home two points: the importance of having a dream, and the blessing that each Dreamer has been granted by being selected for this amazing life-changing opportunity. After being officially welcomed, the dreamers departed with eager hearts, having been given a taste of what is to come. The evening culminated with a presentation by Dexter Tanksley, a Disney Imagineer who has worked on projects for numerous Disney Parks and Resorts, including Disney Shanghai which is now being built.
As I spoke with the other alumni, we began to discuss the how the program is ever-evolving for the good. But we all agreed two things seem to remain constant: Disney's Dreamers Academy's mission to plant the seeds of knowledge, inspiration, exposure and hope in the hearts of all the students attending, and the incredibly positive impact the Academy has on the lives of those who come here with their dreams.