LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – An unprecedented 110 “Dreamers” from across the country came together at The Hall of Presidents at Magic Kingdom Park as Walt Disney World Resort rolled out the red carpet for the 4th annual Disney’s Dreamers Academy with Steve Harvey and Essence Magazine.
Disney’s Dreamers Academy is a four-day program aimed to motivate, empower and inspire high school students. This year’s class is the largest ever since the program began.
“There are turning points in your life and this might be one of them, right here, right now at Walt Disney World Resort,” nationally syndicated radio host Steve Harvey told the 2011 class of Dreamers. “My dream since I was 9-years-old was to be on TV. I didn’t get there until I turned 38 but I got there because I believed in my dream.”
The 2011 Disney’s Dreamers Academy participants were selected from a pool of almost 4,000 applicants. Many of the young people were picked for demonstrating a spirit of volunteerism at local community centers, schools and churches. Some have achieved academic excellence in spite of challenging family circumstances. Others have overcome physical challenges.
Jim Lewis, president of Disney Vacation Club told the students regardless of why they were selected, it’s most important for them to look at the future and not at the past.
“From this moment on, we want you to dream big,” said Lewis. “When you believe in something, have confidence in yourself and your dreams, you can find the confidence to make the impossible, possible. All you need to do is continue to have the faith that your dreams can come true.”
During their special weekend, the 2011 Disney’s Dreamers Academy will participate in more than 20 different hands-on workshops and seminars, exploring education and career fields that include:
Broadcasting: Dreamers will spend time with very special guests from ESPN: The Weekend at Disney’s Hollywood Studios including superstar athletes Chad OchoCinco, Cal Ripken Jr. and Alonzo Mourning.
Marine Biology: Dreamers will learn about the world of marine life at Disney’s 5.7 million gallon aquarium at The Seas with Nemo and Friends attraction, unveiling the beauty of life under the sea and how to care for it
Entertainment: Dreamers will experience the audition process for American Idol as Ruben Studdard and Kimberley Locke take them inside the American Idol Experience at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
Language/International Studies: Dreamers will meet with representatives from the Walt Disney World International Studies program, as well as students from other countries working in the international pavilions at Epcot.
Dreamer Tierney Byrd of Michigan says she’s looking forward to visiting Disney’s Animal Kingdom as one step toward realizing her dream. “I’m very excited to see and learn about the animals here because my dream is to study veterinary medicine and one day become a veterinarian. This whole weekend is such a neat experience because everyone here has a different dream.”
Three Central Florida teens are taking part in the 2011 Disney’s Dreamers Academy – 18-year-old Monica Abernathy from Windermere, 17-year-old Chante Rodgers from Orlando, and 14-year-old Alexis Sheppard from Orlando.
As the welcome session neared its end, camera flashes went off across the auditorium and the Dreamers rose to their feet as gospel singing legend Yolanda Adams took to the podium to welcome them. Adams says the judging process was tough.
“We used a lot of tissue when we read your applications. But we’re happy because we know today that each of you here has the potential to change the world forever.”