We always tell our children to dream big, but for the 15th year, Disney Dreamers Academy is helping them obtain the connections, experience and advice from experts in their industries of interest to make those dreams a reality.
The Disney Dreamers Academy has been in existence since 2018, and every year, 100 teens (ages 13-19) are selected from a large group of applicants to win a four-day immersive experience to the Academy at Walt Disney World. The annual mentorship event is meant to foster the dreams of Black and brown teens and other youth from underrepresented communities, helping them network, learn and more. ESSENCE is on the scene for this year’s Disney Dreamers Academy (and our fierce and fearless CEO Caroline Wanga is speaking at multiple events to encourage Dreamers and their parents) to give you a rundown of what it all entails.
Day I activities on Thursday, March 4 consisted of a special cavalcade through the Magic Kingdom, with iconic Disney characters, including Mickey Mouse. Everyone’s favorite character danced his way through the very first Disney park (did we mention this is the 50th year?) as a drum major with help from a drumline. Princess Tiana waved at adoring park guests atop a float. And a real-life princess, the stunning Kelly Rowland who is the Disney Dreamers celebrity ambassador for this year’s experience, was part of the celebratory ride. She sat with a Dreamer and Disney Dreamers Academy Executive Champion Tracey D. Powell. We had the chance to chat with Rowland about the event, Disney characters she loves and the importance of representation as a whole.
“I needed Tiana,” she said. “Now these little kids get to have their princess and see themselves on television and be Tiana and so many other things. We are just being seen everywhere, and our kids get to be seen everywhere and our culture gets to be seen everywhere including Disney.”
She adds, “The Dreamers Academy is the icing on top because we get to watch these incredible kids and hear their dreams and be a part of their journey and hopefully hold them on our shoulders as they’re dreaming. As they’re walking into their dreams they have a whole army behind them like, ‘Yep, you can do it!'”
Later in the day there was a welcome rally with all of the newest Dreamers and some alumni present. One of the hosts was alumnus Princeton Parker (c/o 2011), who kept everyone enthralled throughout the event by asking the students why they were there to ensure they make the most of their time. There was also the opportunity to hear from the Dreamers themselves, as they shared what they hope to accomplish and how they plan to change the world. And to encourage them as they create their path was Grammy-nominated gospel artist Kierra Sheard. She gave a riveting performance of her song, “It Keeps Happening.”
The very first evening was capped off by fireworks at EPCOT as part of a new Nighttime Spectacular. It celebrates the music of Disney and was enjoyed by the young Dreamers and adults alike.
So, it was a packed start to Disney Dreamers Academy, but a magical experience for all involved — especially the youth. We’re looking forward to all that will be shared and that we too get to learn on day two. Stay tuned!
Images by Gregg Newton