Dreaming Big at Disney's Dreamers Academy - 2011

Wednesday, 09 March 2011 17:07 Written by  Tiffani Alexander

“The most important thing is your dream, a dream will encourage you.” Steve Harvey, comedian, actor and radio/television host, welcomed over 100 high-school students from across the country to the fourth annual “Disney Dreamers Academy” at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Fl.

steveApproximately 4,000 students submitted essays for consideration and only 100 were accepted into the career and networking opportunity (the academy also welcomed 10 dreamers from last year who were not able to attend due to the weather).

Mickey, Steve Harvey, Mikki Taylor, Michelle Ebanks and a few Dreamers. Photo by Todd Anderson

Inspiring the students to “Dream Big,” the weekend of special events, workshops and networking was bought to the most magical place on earth (a most fitting setting for dreaming) by Mr. Harvey and Essence Magazine, with a little help from sponsor Coca Cola.

“Disney’s Dreamers Academy ignites dreams and lives and we are happy to share in this moment,” said Michelle Ebanks, editor-in-chief of Essence Magazine.

Harvey echoed those sentiments saying, “the bible says a man without a dream or a vision shall parish. Here, we focus on that dream.”

Perhaps feeling like they were living in a dream during the four-day event, the dreamers met “celebrities” from various career fields––mingling with sports figures, actors, musicians, motivational speakers and business professionals. Just a few of those in attendance included Mikki Taylor of Essence Magazine; actresses Raven Symone and Tamera Mowry; Executive Chef, Las Vegas’ Café Bellagio, Jeff Henderson; “Camp Rock” star Roshon Fegan; gospel artist Yolanda Adams; educator Dr. Steve Perry; R&B artists and American Idol alums Ruben Studdard and Kimberley Locke; D’Wayne Edwards, footwear design director - Brand Jordan/Nike; Animators Bruce Smith and Marlon West; Journalist Steven A. Smith; BET’s Terrence J, and more.

Dreamers not only mingled and mixed with leaders in various career fields, but they also heard inspiring words from them during motivational speeches, and then learned more about the individual fields during in depth “diver” sessions.

kidThe “diver” sessions were in fact hands-on creative workshops led by top professionals that allowed the students to literally dive into and immerse themselves in the field they dream of working in someday. Students could dive into careers involving entertainment, marine biology, sports and broadcasting, language and international studies, and more.

Dreamers designing their own shoes during D'Wayne Edwards' session. Photo by GMO

During D’Wayne Edwards diver experience––the man behind Carmelo Anthony’s first five signature shoes and the Nike boot––he told the dreamers his personal story. After being told by his high-school guidance counselor that a black kid from Englewood, Ca. could never be a shoe designer, D’Wayne could have given up his dream. Instead, he worked harder and landed his first design job at the age of 19––a job he received while working as a file clerk for a shoe company. He believed in his dream, but put the work behind it, leaving a sketch of his designs each day in the files of the owner.

It was stories like this one, coupled with the activity of designing their own shoes using the shoes of Edwards for their inspiration that really drove home the purpose of this program. The dreamers were inspired, learned the business, and actively participated in it. Perhaps a student was inspired to apply to the footwear design school founded by Edwards. “I didn’t have a path,” he said. “So I created one.” k

Singers Cupid and Kimberley Locke talk with host Terrence J during the Disney Dreamers Academy. Photo by GMO

Staying on your path and remaining focused on your dreams was a sentiment expressed by Dr. Steve Perry, author, educator and founder of Capital Prep. During his presentation, “A Day in the Life of an HBCU Student,” Dr. Perry told the students, many of whom would be entering college soon, not to get caught up in the “college lifestyle.” “Party with a purpose when you get that degree,” he said. He also stressed the importance of surrounding yourself with like-minded people, telling the dreamers, “You can only ride with people who will serve you right...people who want what you want.”

If being chosen (potential dreamers submit essays for consideration) to attend this phenomenal event is any indication, these dreamers are in fact on the right path. But the dreamers were reminded that they couldn’t stop here––there is more work to do. During “Conversations With,” a “talk show” hosted by Terrence J, Singer Kimberley Locke told the rdreamers, “Nobody is going to work as hard as you, nor should they, for your career.”

Part of that work does not happen in a classroom or on the job, but at events like this one. “Relationships are your wealth,” said Mikki Taylor, stressing the point of networking and putting yourself in front of the right people. She encouraged dreamers to talk to her and the other professionals in attendance; to give them their cards (each dreamer had a business card with their contact information) and collect as many cards from the professionals as possible––good advice for the non-students in the room!

Other advice to the dreamers: “Be specific in your dreams. You have to make sure that what you want to do is something that we need in the world,” said Raven-Symone who gave the Keynote speech during the commencement ceremony. During her inspiring and hilarious speech, Raven went into the audience and let a few dreamers tell her and the entire room their dreams. The first dreamer wanted to be a singer. “Sing,” demanded Raven––and the dreamer did.

American Idol Ruben Studdard and Dreamers Naadira Brooks and Patricia Albright in front of the "American Idol Experience." Photo by Matt Stroshane

“The first girl that interviewed,” said Raven during an interview following her speech, “did not want to sing.” “She was shaking out of her pants. And I said, ‘here’s your moment.’ But, unlike most times when I do that, I only had to tell her once.”

Taking Steve Harvey’s opening words of advice to heart not to “blow this blessing,” the dreamers seemed ready and poised to seize the moment. “They want us to dream big,” said dreamer DeHatticia Bradd. “They are helping us to feel inspired.”

Lawrence Smith, director of finance at the Walt Disney Vacation Club, summed up the purpose of the Disney Dreamers Academy perfectly: “Dreamers, dream big. If you don’t dream big enough, then you never know how high you can go.”


See more images from the Disney Dreamers Academy on the Glossy Blog!

Tiffani Alexander

Tiffani Alexander

Publisher and Editor in Chief of GlossMagazineOnline.com (GMO), Tiffani Alexander came to Chicago in the fall of 2004 to pursue her Master's degree in Arts, Entertainment & Media Management at Columbia College Chicago. Tiffani earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism from the University of
 Maryland, College Park. She has worked for both Cygnus Business Media and Maher Publishing before embarking on her dream to start her own magazine. In addition to publishing GMO bi-monthly, Tiffani freelances and works as an editor on a legal journal in Washington, DC.


Tiffani can be contacted at TiffaniA@glossmagazineonline.com

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Website: www.glossmagazineonline.com