The African proverb “each one, teach one” took on extra meaning during the opening ceremony of the National Association of Black Journalists conference in Miami. Multi-platinum artist Ne-Yo and The Lion King’s JD McCrary made a special appearance at a Disney-sponsored reception, where journalists learned first-hand about the Disney Dreamers Academy.
For more than 10 years, ESSENCE has partnered with Steve Harvey and Walt Disney Company for their mentoring initiative Disney Dreamers Academy. Each spring, 100 students participate in a four-day program of intensive educational, networking, professional and motivational workshops throughout the Walt Disney World Resort. But the real gems of the program are the “dreamer” interactions with the celebrities, experts and community leaders.
Last March, Ne-Yo gifted a recording session with Disney Dreamer of the Year Anthony Juba-Richardson. Both he and Ne-Yo reconnected last Wednesday at the NABJ conference, where they spoke about the power of mentoring.
“You cannot learn how to be a man on your own,” says Ne-Yo. “You need someone to teach you how to do that, to help guide you and correct you. That’s one of the reasons mentoring is important: to make sure that the next generation is something we can be proud of.”
Juba-Richardson, a recent high school grad from Orlando, FL, still pinches himself from the opportunity Disney Dreamers gave him. “That whole experience was transcendent,” he says in Miami. “When I was younger Ne-Yo was on all my playlists. Each and every one. I saw him in concert two years ago and never in my wildest dreams, would I have the opportunity to record with somebody with the type of talent as Ne-Yo. I’ve been truly blessed.”
Fresh from the box office blockbuster The Lion King, JD McCrary, who plays young Simba, served as one of the celebrity youth mentors during the 2019 Dreamer program. McCrary’s recent success is a testament to his own advice: “Dream big, keep going, keep striving for your goals and you will always achieve your dreams. You will always make it to where you want to be.”