When invited to cover the Disney Dreamers Academy hosted by Steve Harvey and Essence Magazine, I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect. I haven’t been to Disney since I was in high school and I didn’t think I would get caught up in all the “magic.” Boy, was I wrong. The weekend ended up being inspiring, enthralling, and yes, magical.
First off: Disney holds nothing back in helping the high performing kids in attendance dream even bigger. The program is hosted over a weekend, with kids arriving on Friday and leaving on Sunday. The weekend is jam-packed with events, but the best part is that their all in the interest and the betterment of children. Each year, Disney and Essence chooses 100 kids to come for the inspiring weekend. The kids are allowed to bring one parent or chaperone for the event (yes, all of their amenities are covered as well).
Upon arrival, I dropped my things off and immediately rushed to a luncheon followed by a press conference where Tracey Powell, Vice President, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts and DDA Executive Champion gave opening remarks along with Michelle Ebanks, CEO of Essence Communications who explained what would occur over the weekend. Disney Dreamer Alumni also spoke to get current Dreamers excited for the weekend.
Disney is all about the magic and even if you think you’re not going to feel it, they will make sure you do! There is a daily parade at the Magic Kingdom and Disney organized to let the Dreamers’ lead it. Very cool and exciting for the kids. Afterward, the kids have an option to go to a Deep Dive. Deep Dives happen throughout the weekend with the kids being able to explore area of interests and connect with experts and leaders in that field.
In addition to Deep Dives, the weekend also consists of a lot of motivational speaking. Princeton Parker, Mikki Taylor, Lisa Nichols, Yolanda Adams and more poured words of strength, encouragement and love into the students. I surveyed the room and you could just see the kids sitting straighter, off their phones, and minds turning. The greatest part is that a lot of these speakers are returning speakers. Mikki Taylor helped found the program and Lisa Nichols also spoke to the students last year.
Of course, kids don’t just want to hear from adults, so the Dreamers’ Academy also brought in Black-ish stars Marcus Scribner and Miles Brown to talk about how they deal with balancing their dreams, enjoying being kids throughout the fame, and more.
In an interview with Steve Harvey. We discussed how the program had evolved. He reflected on past years and how he had met so many parents that had “poured everything into their children and forgotten about their own dreams.” Harvey admitted to being a “big dreamer” and still dreaming at 62, so he found it important to also make sure that parents were still doing the same. There were organized “Parent Tracks” to allow parents time to reflect, learn, and grow. The whole event felt like a family reunion. There was a family dinner and on Sunday, the commencement felt more like a Sunday church service.
Yes, throughout the busy weekend there is still time to enjoy Disney and all the parks. It’s a lot of work and character building, but also an equal amount of magic and play. The event is diverse, with kids of all races and a range of high school ages in attendance. This is like a hyped up summer camp and after speaking to Dreamer Alumni, they still keep in touch with people from their cohort.
If your kid or a high schooler you know is looking for an opportunity to ensure their future is bright, encourage them to apply to Disney Dreamers Academy. I wasn’t even a part of the program and left incredibly inspired by the students!