Wednesday, Mar 16, 2022
A 15-year-old freshman at Lakewood Ranch High School earned passage to experience reimagined Disney magic when she answered essay questions about her personal stories and dreams. Khushi Talluru was one of 100 lucky teens from across America selected from thousands of applicants to participate in the 15th anniversary of the Disney Dreamers Academy held March 3-6 at Walt Disney World Resorts in Lake Buena Vista.A panel of judges deemed Talluru’s submission among the nation’s best, and she was awarded an all-expenses-paid excursion to engage in four days filled with immersive sessions that taught valuable life tools such as leadership, effective communication techniques, and networking strategies.
“We are excited and honored to celebrate 15 years of Disney Dreamers Academy with this year’s class,” said Tracey D. Powell, Walt Disney World Resort vice president, and Disney Dreamers Academy executive champion. “We’ve embraced this opportunity to amplify the event, and we’re thrilled to introduce new experiences, new career programs, and new mentors.”
Established by Walt Disney World in 2008, Disney Dreamers Academy is an educational mentoring program and has inspired more than 1,400 young leaders to dream beyond imagination by fueling their dreams and showing them a world of possibilities as they prepare for their futures. In the years following, graduates have gone on to become doctors, nurses, engineers, pilots, journalists, and more and have transitioned into mentors to the Disney Dreamers who follow them.
“It’s been magical, to say the least,” Talluru shared
with the Bradenton Times. “When we arrived,
we got to be in the Disney parade which is not something everyone can say they’ve done. Then I attended the Welcome Ceremony which was inspiring and kind of like wow! I’m really here doing this, so it was cool and exciting.”
Talluru is the daughter of pharmacist Sirisha Kandepi—her mother and biggest inspiration—and Madan Talluru, her father and computer software programmer who served as her chaperone. While each Dreamer is allowed one parent or guardian, the Tallurus’ turned the Disney Academy into a family vacation inclusive of nine-year-old son, Rishi.
“We are very proud of Khushi, and she is one daughter you would love to have,” said her father who described his award-winning daughter as always hard working and motivated.
“In elementary school, she was always playful and making friends, but once she came to middle school it just clicked in her what she wanted to pursue, and Khushi became very career-oriented. She knew she wanted to be on her feet on her job and not sitting down,” he mused.
Dreamer Talluru is highly focused with keen awareness to alleviate bias and stereotypes by adding diversity into the entertainment industry with characters that break stereotypes. She plans to attend Brown University and study emergency medicine as a springboard to financial stability, but her heart belongs to the arts.
“My dream is to employ my writing and leadership skills to change the world—this would ensure that every kid finds a character that looks like them, with a unique personality,” said Talluru who added that no kid should ever feel bound by stereotypes.
“So even as I study to become a doctor, I plan to continue writing novels or helping in the screenwriting industry because that is my ultimate passion, my dream and that is why I am here today,” she added.
Khushi Talluru is a ninth-grader at Lakewood Ranch High School and a “Disney Dreamer.”
The ninth-grader who swims on the varsity team proved her talent when she won a gold medal in poetry during her first year of eligibility in the National Scholastic Art and Writing competition (regional division). She additionally competed against more than 140 students and won a $10,000 award by the SAR (Saramana chapter) which required participants to analyze and discuss what freedom means to them.
Kelly Rowland—of Destiny’s Child fame—served as the class of 2022 celebrity ambassador and commencement speaker. The four-time Grammy Award-winning singer, songwriter, actress, and executive producer delivered nuggets of truth that exampled failing and winning throughout her own successful career. A ring presentation marked the teens’ special achievement.
“What I remember most from Rowland’s speech was her talking about the magic of ‘and’ rather than the limitations of ‘or’,” shared Talluru whose own words sum up dreams:
“I think everyone should pursue their dreams and not be held back by anyone telling them, or them telling themselves, they cannot do it,” said Talluru. “Ultimately, if you look at anyone successful, they pursued their dream without letting anyone stop them, so I say do what your heart desires.”
Kelly Rowland, Disney Dreamers Celebrity Ambassador (Photo credit: Walt Disney World)
Grammy Award-winning singer, songwriter, actress and executive producer Kelly Rowland joins Drum Major Mickey Mouse to welcome the Disney Dreamers Academy Class of 2022 at Magic Kingdom and celebrate the landmark 15thyear of Disney Dreamers Academy at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The Disney Dreamers Academy, taking place March 3-6, 2022 is a mentorship event hosted annually by Walt Disney World Resort that fosters the dreams of Black students and teens from underrepresented communities.
—Penny Dickerson, Independent Journalist