Yolanda Adams knows a thing or two about giving back. This former school teacher has always kept kids near and dear to her heart. Just recently she teamed up with Disney, ESSENCE and Steve Harvey for their annual Disney Dreamers Academy weekend. ESSENCE.com’s Managing Editor Emil Wilbekin caught up with the Gospel singer and asked why it’s important to participate, what her dream was growing up, and more.

ESSENCE.com: Why is it important for you to be here this weekend?
It’s always important for me to make sure that I am doing something that gives back to our kids. You know how it is — we can get busy with so many things but the most important resource that we have really is our children. If we’re not giving back to them, and if we’re not pouring into them, we’re going to miss them and we’re going to mess up our world.

ESSENCE.com: You’re one of the judges. What were some of the most inspiring things you saw in the letters?
Some of the most inspiring things to me were how these kids were so family-oriented. If you look at Twitter, Facebook, and all of that other stuff, you think that [kids] are star-struck. But out of the 4,000 [students who applied], 99.9% of the kids here talked about doing this so that their young siblings could see them grow up and reach their goal, their moms could be proud of them, and their grandparents who were raising them could be proud of them. I thought to myself, ‘Man, we are not losing our community.’

ESSENCE.com: What was your dream growing up?
My dream growing up was to be a television reporter. Then, of course, once I finished my internship at a CBS affiliate, I had to go and teach because there were no jobs at that time. Our corporation bought out Columbia and I said, ‘I’ve got to do something.’ So I started teaching and then all of a sudden the music kicked off. When the music kicked off it was like, ‘Whoa, here we go. So now, I’m syndicated on the radio. It always feels good when Aretha Franklin tells you that you did a good job. That part of television? Yes it rocked!

ESSENCE.com: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
The best advice I’ve ever received came from my mom. Be yourself, do yourself, and love yourself so no one will ever be able to accuse you of doing anything else.

ESSENCE.com: If you could give these graduates words of advice, what would you tell them?
Pretty much the same thing my mom said. Hold on to your dreams. Definitely keep a journal. You know what journaling does. Journaling is cathartic. It does so much for you. Also, keep up with everything that is going on technologically because you will always need technology. Know the most about your subject. If you’re the only one that knows why Satchmo was called Satchmo, know that. There are things that you have to know in the entertainment industry or the medical industry, so know them all. And when you show up, show up to do the work.


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