“Your mind works like a parasite, it works better when it’s open,” said Steve Harvey.
That was the beginning of a weekend full of advice and mind-opening opportunities for 100 kids from across the country, including five from New York City, who joined Harvey and Essence magazine for the fifth annual Disney Dreamers Academy.
The free, all-access four-day trip to Disney World took place March 8-12 and was organized to inspire, motivate and empower young people through mentorship, motivational and experience opportunities.
Zahara Abd’Allah, a 17-year-old from Jamaica, Queens, said she felt “ecstatic” about being chosen as one of this year’s Dreamers. “Words can’t really describe it…I feel extremely blessed,” she said before heading off to Disney last week.
While Harvey told the 100 dreamers that they were special, he said, “I can assure you, the trickle-down effect probably touches tens of thousands. The real deal is that God blesses you to become a blessing.”
A host of celebrities such as Jordin Sparks, Yolanda Adams, Selita Ebanks, Terrence J, Regina Hall, Sean Kingston, Kimberley Locke, the EriAm Sisters, Will Packer, Dreamers Academy alumna Niki Dawson, Lamman Rucker, Stephen Hill, Mikki Taylor and Tracey Powell, among many others, were on hand to exemplify this point by giving back by joining the kids and their parents for a weekend of networking and motivational talks.
These celebrities, along with many professionals from Disney and across the country, gave motivational speeches throughout the weekend and led Dreamers through “diver experiences,” intensive introductory classes based on the Dreamers’ career interests that were led by some of the top professionals in each field.
Vanessa Bush and Tanisha Sykes from Essence, Eric Watson and Jeremy Hutchins of BET, Monica Barnes from “The Steve Harvey Morning show” and Demorris Lee of the National Association of Black Journalists led diver experiences for students interested in journalism and had Dreamers report on their weekend experiences.
Meanwhile, Chef Jeff Henderson, a man who turned his life around and became a nationally acclaimed chef after being incarcerated for selling drugs, led Dreamers in culinary lessons. Acclaimed producer Will Packer helped Dreamers develop and pitch movies during his session. In total, 37 diver experiences were offered.
Abd’Allah, who was nominated by her fellow Dreamers and won the Innovative Thinker Award during the Academy, said, “I can’t begin to describe how amazing this whole experience was.” Before entering the Academy, Abd’Allah explained that her dream was to become a naturopathic doctor, using natural medicines and acupuncture. Just after the program’s commencement, she expanded that dream, saying, “My ultimate goal is to also have a health/talent radio show, so I can give back what I learn.”
Other New York City Dreamers also plan to expand their dreams and give back to their communities through their newly enhanced dreams.
“When you come back, that’s when the real work comes in. That is when you really find out how committed you are,” said Jonathan Sprinkles, who gave everyone, dreamers and potential dreamers alike, the advice to “surround yourself with people who have the commitment you want. Be around people who have the same drive that you do. They will be the people who make you run instead of walk.”
Students who are interested in applying for next year’s Disney Dreamers Academy can apply at www.mydisneydiscovery.com/dreamers-academy.