Ninety-nine dreamers descended on Walt Disney World last week to participate in the seventh annual Disney Dreamers Academy with Steve Harvey and Essence magazine. Representing 27 states and the District of Columbia, these young people, aged 13-19, came with the intention of getting guidance and help to figure out how to achieve their dreams.
Over 10,000 students applied for the 100 coveted dreamer spots. Every dreamer and their chaperone (parent or guardian) received an all-expenses-paid trip to Disney. The four-day program was especially created for dreamers to help fulfill their dreams, and there was a separate program for the chaperones to help them to help the dreamers fulfill their dreams.
The highlights of the Academy included hearing from Harvey and Magic Johnson. The students also had networking sessions with Michelle Ebanks and Mikki Taylor from Essence, along with Johnathan Sprinkles and other mentors in areas such as the arts, law, medicine and business, among others.
Saturday was dedicated to Disney Deep Dives, where the dreamers delved further into their chosen fields. The experience will stay with these young people forever. According to many of the parents, they could not have dreamed of anything better for their children.
Alicia Hamilton-Young, the mother of Dreamer Tiana Young from Rockland County, N.Y., said, ” The experience exposed them to opportunities and gives them food for thought about what they can reach, and that dedication pays off.
Marcia Greg-Miller, mother of Dreamer Avia Anderson, found out that her daughter was selected as a Dreamer on her birthday. “On my birthday, Avia got a package in the mail. This experience motivates her, and she sees something out there and puts her all into it, and this is where it can lead,” Greg-Miller said. In addition, Hamilton-Miller said that that the parent programing was so inspirational and motivating. Another parent commented on what she personally got out of the experience.
In the parent talk by Dr. Steve Perry, “Raising a Dreamer,” Perry said to the parents and guardians that even though they are trying to help their children reach their dreams, they can’t forget their own. This mother, when she returns home to Georgia, is planning to return to school and get her nursing degree.
Every Dreamer has a story, and those chosen to participate in the program all had to overcome something. Each one brought something special to the program. Not everyone was an A student, but everyone had a special spark and a story to tell—and that makes them Dreamers.
The Disney Dreamers program has now touched almost 700 young people from around the country. The program, which just graduated its seventh class, will continue next year with the Disney Dreamers Class of 2015. For more information on the program and how to apply, check out www.disneydreamersacademy.com.
Four young people from NewYork City were selected as 2014 Dreamers. They hailed from the Bronx and Brooklyn. Below is a little bit about each one.
Avia Anderson: Greater New York Academy, Bronx, N.Y.
- Anderson was born in Manchester, Jamaica, and moved to New York at age 5. Currently, she is a senior at the Greater New York Academy high school. At her school, she is the Student Association secretary and an editor on the yearbook staff. The opportunities she experienced though the program were life changing. The greatest gift that the program gave her was confidence. She says that this has helped her get over her shyness and now says, “I believe I can do it.” Her goal is to attend college and pursue a career in broadcast journalism.
Daniel Anikwue: Northside Charter School, Brooklyn, N.Y.
- Anikwue was born in Nigeria and now lives in Brooklyn. He had never intended to apply to the Dreamers program, but his mother persuaded him to put in the application. He actually did not want to do it; he was too busy doing college and scholarship applications. But finally, he acquiesced and sent his application in. Now Anikwue is a believer of the magic and says, “Nothing can hold me back.” He also said that this experience makes him want to do more. Next fall, he will attend college, and he dreams of becoming an emergency room doctor and possibly owning his own hospital some day because he believes we have to do better with health care and he wants to help solve the problem.
Madison Mack: The Young Women’s Leadership School of Brooklyn, Brooklyn, N.Y.
- Mack dreams of being the the first African-American four-star general in the U.S. Army. She wants to become a person who helps change history for African-Americans and women—just like Major General Marcia Anderson. She now knows that leadership is the key to her goals and said this experience has been fun and extremely helpful.
Chelsea Mina: Berkeley Carroll School, Brooklyn, N.Y.
- Chelsea is a 14-year-old freshman at the Berkeley Carroll School. Her passion is working with women and children in her community and abroad. She dreams of starting an organization called LECHE, Let Every Child Have an Education. It would create schools in countries around that world so that they can have a better future. Of the Dreamers Academy, she said that she never thought she would get to meet the people she did through this experience. She hopes to attend an historically Black college or university after graduation. In one world, she described the experience as “amazing.”