Elaine Hegwood Bowen, M.S.J. | Chicago Crusadere
Teens from around the country are trying to put their best foot forward in hopes of being among the 100 students selected for the 2023 Disney Dreamers Academy (DDA). Applications are now underway for the inspiring and transformational mentorship program at Walt Disney World Resort for Black teens and students from underrepresented communities.
The application process for the 16th annual program, set for March 23-26, 2023, runs through October at www.DisneyDreamersAcademy.com.
The 100 teen participants receive an all-expense-paid trip along with one parent or guardian to Walt Disney World Resort in Florida to experience a combination of inspiration, education and fun at The Most Magical Place on Earth.
The program is an important part of Disney’s commitment to supporting diverse communities by encouraging the next generation of Black students to think big, so they can relentlessly pursue their dreams and make a difference in the lives of others.
“We’re excited to find the next group of Disney Dreamers and welcome them to Walt Disney World Resort for an experience they won’t soon forget,” said Tracey D. Powell, Disney Signature Experiences vice president and Disney Dreamers Academy executive champion. “If there is a teen in your life who has a dream, I would highly encourage them to apply. Taking a first step towards your dream is a hugely powerful moment. And, for those who are selected, the experience can be life changing.”
Since 2008, Disney Dreamers Academy has inspired more than 1,400 students from across the country who were selected from thousands of applicants who submitted written essays about their personal stories and dreams for the future.
During the four-day event, the students interact with community and business leaders, Disney cast members, celebrities and other special guests while participating in sessions teaching valuable life tools such as leadership skills, effective communication techniques and networking strategies.
Past celebrity participants have included stars from the big screen and television, noted sports figures, popular musicians as well as personalities and cast members from across the Disney family, including “Good Morning America,’’ ESPN, Disney Channel and the TV series “black-ish” and “grown-ish.”
During a previous DDA, “grown-ish” actor Trevor Jackson shared, “he encourages the students to let them know that other young Black men have been in their shoes. Things aren’t always as bad as they seem.”
The students also take part in career workshops covering a variety of disciplines aligned with the students’ dreams. These workshops introduce the Disney Dreamers to diverse career paths within business, entertainment and sciences, including career opportunities within The Walt Disney Company.
The career workshops are filled with valuable skills and hands-on opportunities provided by experts in their particular fields.
After taking part in the academy, graduates have gone on to become doctors, nurses, engineers, pilots, journalists and more, and some have transitioned into mentors to the Disney Dreamers who followed them.
I have covered this event a few times in the past. The experience is rewarding not just for the students but the parents, as well.
A previous DDA student Kayla Nelson said, “My experience was truly amazing, I connected with a lot of people who all have high aspirations along with amazing characters. We learned a lot about the professions that we want to go in and got a deeper understanding of how everything works. We got to connect with people who can help us get to where we want to be.”
At the end of the four days, students will receive their Disney Dreamers Academy class rings during what promises to be an emotional Sunday morning graduation ceremony, which will be held on March 26.
For more information, visit www.DisneyDreamersAcademy.com or follow on social media.
This article originally appeared in The Chicago Crusader.