While the first day of the Disney Dreamers Academy at Walt Disney World was all about celebration, day two was a blend of activation and inspiration. Not only was this the case for the Dreamers, but also for their parents.

There were plenty of opportunities for everyone to learn and be motivated. Early in the morning, the Dreamers class of 2022 had the chance to gain inspiration from alumni, as well as from leading professionals in fields that the students want to work in. Interests included entertainment, design, media sports and storytelling; business, social media and service careers; and the sciences, technology and storytelling.

There were also Deep Dives — breakout sessions where the Dreamers had the chance to actually get hands-on experience with professionals in their desired industries. For instance, students interested in music had the chance to play around in the Roy E. Disney Production Center. I also had the chance to watch kids try graphic design and more, and to meet motivated Dreamers. One included Simmi Sen, creator of the streetwear brand Tints. With a desire to help people embrace more color in their fashion choices, she started the brand of clothing, selling in boutiques in LA and Portland. She is one of the 100 students doing amazing things, currently networking and picking up the tools to elevate her business and ideas for the future.

High school students participate in career workshops the landmark 15th year 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.

As for parents, they got to hear from ESSENCE’s very own CEO, Caroline Wanga. She gave a phenomenal and transparent talk about her journey as a parent in her session, titled, “Pursuing Your Own Dream.” She encouraged moms and dads of Dreamers to be true to themselves and their purpose even if other people try to tell them their own dreams aren’t good enough.

“The hardest part of that purpose pursuit exercise is one thing: being quiet when you hear the voice of dissent. Because what we want to do when we hear the voice of dissent, or somebody that doesn’t believe us, or is talking crap, or wants to shut us down, haters — pick a word — is we want to defend or respond, or tell him, ‘you know who you’re talking to?'” she said.

“There is a place in my life without purpose where that would’ve done damage. When you’re living in purpose and you have that audacious agenda, you’re just myopic, and you’re getting affirmed that you’re headed in the right direction,” she adds. “Those then become not daggers, but they are literally telling you where to put your armor. And what that allows you to do is to operate in the circles of those who support you and don’t support you with the same amount of strength.”

Essence CEO Caroline Wanga speaks to this year’s class at the landmark 15th year 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.

Love it! Later in the evening, there were the Be 100 Empowerment sessions, presented by Hallmark Mahogany, which were panels that delved into the ins and outs of careers in entertainment, leadership or service, and science and tech. During those conversations, the experts, including our very own CEO, were able to go into breakout groups with the Dreamers to talk to them about their best path forward.

The night ended with a dance party for the students, who were able to unwind with one another after a day of working on challenges together, getting tangible experience in the areas they want to work and study in, and overall, being instructed and encouraged. Two days down, two eventful more to go!

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