The Walt Disney World Resort welcomed 100 teens selected to participate in the 2023 Disney Dreamers Academy (DDA)  for four days of inspiration and empowerment March 23 through March 26.

The Academy marks its 16th year of helping youth from around the nation. More than 1,500 students have been through the program. 

This year’s group traveled from 27 states for the all-expenses-paid trip to Disney World. They were selected from thousands of applicants nationwide. A total of five students from the New York-metro area were selected to participate in this year’s program

Students at the event had interests in medical, engineering and entertainment careers. Several of them already run their own businesses or community organizations.

Singer-songwriter and actress Halle Bailey served as the celebrity ambassador for the Disney Dreamers Academy along with other celebrities who participated. Bailey is starring as Ariel in the upcoming live-action Disney film The Little Mermaid based on the 1989 Disney animated film. The new movie is being released in theaters on May 26.

Speaking to the media at Disney’s Magic Kingdom theme park, Bailey tol the AmNews tht the students inspire her.

“I love coming to the Disney Dreamers Academy,” she said. These students are so inspiring to me I’m just grateful to be in the midst of such talented individuals,” she said. 

Disney Dreamers Academy Executive Champion Tracey Powell, who also works as Vice President of Travel Services, Pricing & Revenue Management at Disney Parks, Experiences, & Products and Disney Dreamers Academy Executive Champion, told the AmNews that organizers try to make the Dreamers Academy different because every class of students is different.

“We want the students to always be able to dream,” Powell said. “We want them to be able to take the opportunity [and] step away from what they’ve come from and really enjoy the moment. This is a weekend of transformation.”

Students from the New York-metro area who participated in this year’s Academy included Morgan Lin from Brooklyn, Emily Melendez from Queens, Amechi Chukwujiorah-Strange from Queens, Autumn Tyler from Chester, NY, Claudia Merchan from Hackensack, NJ and Mosope Aina from Newark, NJ.

Aina, 17, was surprised on live national television on ABC’s Good Morning America back in January when she found out she was accepted to the Disney Dreamers Academy. Aina has dreams of working as a healthcare professional and advocate for neurodiversity and improve healthcare disparities.

“I’ve met a lot of cool people who do amazing things,” Aina told the AmNews. “It’s really nice being around people who are so passionate about what they want to do. I want to do something in the field of neuroscience. There’s a lot to be done in that field because of the disparities. If I can keep my dreams I can give back to my community.”

Taylor, 17, told the AmNews she enjoyed meeting other students and gaining different perspectives on college and how to approach her career. She has dreams of opening medical clinics in underserved communities.

“I really want to focus on how to branch out and be different,” Taylor said. “I’m used to just going with the flow of things but I’m ready to stand out and be bold in my career path for medicine.” 

Speakers for this year’s Dreamers Academy included artist H.E.R, actress Marsai Martin, ESSENCE President and CEO Caroline Wanga, pop culture expert Mike Muse, actress Dominique Thorne, film producer James Lopez, ballet dancer Aesha Ash, music producer Larrance Dopson, veterinarians Drs. Vernard L. Hodges and Terrence Ferguson of Nat Geo Wild’s Critter Fixers and the cast of Disney’s animated series The Proud Family.

During an interview with the media, H.E.R. said it’s important that students nurture all of their interests.

“Some people say you have to focus on one thing but I think you have to take it day by day and figure out the bigger picture,” she said. “I knew in my spirit that I had to do this music thing 100 percent and put in the 10,000 hours. You have to get to know yourself and see what works for you.”

Alumni Dreamers from previous classes also attended the event to offer their help and advice to attendees. Princeton Parker, who was a Disney Dreamer in 2011, was one of the hosts for the Dreamers Academy. He’s been involved with the program for 12 years and works for Disney Parks, Experiences and Products.

“The needs of young people right now are so different than any other generation before,”Parker said. “They need to know that in the midst of them seeing so many options, they need to know that those options are possible for them. They need to be given the tools and the tactics to build relationships.”

The teens arrived at the Walt Disney World Resort on Thursday, where they participated in a parade at Disney’s Magic Kingdom theme park followed by a welcome ceremony with a welcoming rally at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort where speakers included Powell, Bailey and Parker. The students were also treated to a marching band performance and a step show by members of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.

On Friday, the Dreamers heard inspirational speeches, Dreamers participated in hands-on workshops in various career fields around Walt Disney World. The students attend the “Career Academy Expose” session where they were separated based on their career interests to hear from and network with Disney cast members and other  professionals about a vast array of career opportunities. The academies included business and service, entertainment and storytelling and science and technology.

Dreamers were taught how to present themselves and make a good impression on Saturday. Teens learned about the value of self-image along with making a good impression. The students learned about creating their personal brand and image via their attire from some of the fashion industry’s biggest names including stylist Misa Hylton and Jerome Lamar. Several Dreamers participated in a fashion show to showcase their new looks.

In the evening the teens showcased what they learned during their “Deep Dive” sessions on Friday at the “Bee 100 Cafe for the Senses Showcase and Dinner.” Dreamers took the stage to explain what they learned to make their professional dreams come true. Students also performed poetry, acting and music.

With the program closing Sunday, the Dreamers participated in an emotional commencement ceremony, where they were given special rings by their parents and guardians for their work during the event at a breakfast before going home. Gospel singers The Walls Group and Pastor Mike, Jr.  gave performances during the ceremony and Bailey left the students and their parents with encouraging words before going home.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *