Nine Florida students among 100 chosen for Disney Dreamers Academy with Steve Harvey, Essence
The selfless drive and passion to advance the dreams of America’s youth was celebrated March 5-8 at the eighth annual Walt Disney World Dreamers Academy with partners Steve Harvey and Essence magazine.
A nationally recognized syndicated television and radio personality, Harvey joined forces with A-list celebrities, motivational speakers and entrepreneurs to both select and hands-on mentor 100 of the country’s most promising high school students.
Each year, the selection committee led by Harvey, reviews stellar essays that best convey dreams.
A record 10,000 applications were received, 9,900 hopefuls received letters of decline, and the blessed 1 percent who were selected received an all-expense paid, four-day career and personal development immersion at the Walt Disney World resort.
Inspired by Jakes, Adams
This year’s consortium of “Dreamers” was represented by 28 states and traveled as far as 3,100 miles with goals to take the medical field by storm, conquer Wall Street as executives or entrepreneurs, and ignite the world as an engineers. But none shined brighter than Florida’s representative nine.
From Jacksonville to Miami and smaller cities between, the peninsula’s pride are extraordinary teenagers who are cheer leaders, Boy Scouts determined to become “Eagles,’’ multi-sport varsity athletes, youth members of “Doctors without Borders,” and community activists who excel as volunteers. With a parent or guardian in tow and their best behavior turned up, they came – they saw Mickey Mouse, Bishop T.D. Jakes and Yolanda Adams – they learned life-changing skills, and they tweeted their experiences like social media beasts whose smiles rivaled Florida’s infinite sun.
Harvey’s personal picks
The rare chance to meet Steve Harvey up-close and personal was a bonus for every participant, but for Harvey’s successful youth initiative, stardom took a back seat for a more important endeavor.
“The thing that makes the Dreamers Academy best for me, is when I pick the two kids that don’t have no idea what they want to do in life. A couple of people in their family told them they ain’t never gonna be nothing. There are two kids here like that this year.” Harvey stated.
“Every year I [personally] pick two who everybody else has ‘wrote off.’ All those kids are doing well now. Three of ’em are in college, two of ’em in graduate school…that’s what this program is.
When you instill something in someone that changes their life – that’s the program.”
The hallmark of the academy’s success rests in the accomplishments of the previous 7,000 graduates. Notable alumni achievement include launching nonprofit organizations and fashion lines featured in New York Fashion Week, publishing magazines and novels, and successful careers in television and film.
Ready for med school
Several of Florida’s nine are stethoscope-ready and some are already clinically astute. Danyscia Jarvis is a senior in the Health Magnet Academy at Tampa Bay Technical High School. Born in the Virgin Islands, her summers are hands-on at a local hospital and assisted living facility.
She dreams of being a neonatal nurse while her peer Shanese Campbell has hopes of becoming an OB/GYN. Campbell is a 16-year-old international baccalaureate at Miramar High School who plans to attend the University of Central Florida in Orlando, an institution renowned for its pre-med program. The dual-degree approach is better suited for Roneisha Alexander of Green Cove Springs.
A career in clinical psychology and business management is befitting for the Clay High School senior whose illustrious list of extracurricular activities include Habitat for Humanity, “Pay it Forward,” Delta Sigma Theta Sorority’s GEMS program, Beta Club and the Clay County Teen Court.
Cornerstone Charter Academy’s Lionell Wright promotes physician assistant as a relevant within the medical field. His dream is to become one via an education at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville, a few hours north of his Belle Isle home.
Wright is enrolled in his school’s biomedical program and an active member of HOSA (Health Occupations Students in America). Essence Communications President Michelle Ebanks ensures that her partnership with Disney and Harvey will effectively help each of the aforementioned teens realize their dreams: “This year, we plan to go above and beyond to encourage Dreamers. Our valued partnership with Disney Parks and Steve Harvey represents our commitment to the leaders of tomorrow,” shared Ebanks. Soundbites for success While time for theme park convergence was weaved into an otherwise intense schedule, a necessary priority was attending the Disney Dreamers Academy (DDA). Various Walt Disney World theme parks were transformed into classroom settings that placed emphasis on the Dreamers’ specific career goals. Industry professionals including surgeons, lawyers, entrepreneurs, Disney imagineers and others shared invaluable lessons to help catapult dreams. The art of effective communication and image awareness were taught by Harvey’s adult twin daughters, Brandi and Karli Harvey, founders, CEO and artistic director of Young Fit and Fly. Armed with custom business cards provided by DDA, each Dreamer also learned the art of networking. Additionally, the Disney Dreamers Academy Speakers Resource Group – official ambassadors of DDA – offered inspiring presentations. But words of wisdom to dream and live by were also plentiful and some of Harvey’s celebrated television friends spoke bountiful truths. A favorite among all Dreamers was Terrence “J” Jenkins, co-anchor of E! News and former host of BET’s “106 & Park.’’ “We had a great panel and talked to the kids about not giving up on your dreams, surrounding yourself with the right people, and just how to stay hungry…a lot of these kids have focus but for me it wasn’t that easy. It wasn’t until I was like 18 or 19. I tried a lot of things, I failed at a lot of things, so when success came, I was always very appreciative,” he shared. Gospel superstar and radio personality Yolanda Adams emphasized faith. “One of the things I want the kids to realize is that their dreams ARE possible. If you know what you want to do and believe in yourself, your dreams are possible,” said Adams. “A dream is given to you so that you can accomplish it. That doesn’t mean it will happen in four days, five years, or five decades, but every day, do something towards accomplishing that dream.” To learn more about the Disney Dreamers Academy program, visit http://www.disneydreamersacademy.com.