Congratulations, class of 2022! Meet the current class.
I’m excited to share that Disney Dreamers Academy (DDA), a four day educational mentorship program hosted by The Walt Disney World Resort (WDW) celebrates its 15th year of creating magic for Black students and teens from underrepresented communities across the U.S. This year, the event will be held March 3- 6, 2022 in person once again, at the Most Magical Place on Earth! I can only imagine the excitement for the attendees this year with the pandemic looming, we really didn’t know if they’d get to gather together.
We’ve talked here and in our Black Disney Moms community on facebook A LOT on the important of representation and creating and fostering safe spaces for our Black children. This event not only brings together teens from diverse backgrounds, but they provide a strong presence of Black leaders in various industries, with stories and shared experiences that inspire the teens in moving forward. This truly was a place that my daughter, Kei, felt seen, heard, and validated in various ways. She was surrounded and welcomed by her peers, realizing they all had similar mindsets and goals – to be happy, to learn and grow, and a desire to make a difference.
KeiLana graduated from DDA in 2018 as a freshman, and that experience is a core memory forever. When she attended, there were multiple opportunities for deep dives into career paths and networking with those in their chosen field. She learned to #Be100 in all that she does, and took to heart the teachings and experiences of the program in her daily life. When she applied for and was accepted into the program she wanted to be a surgeon, and while she enjoyed the deep dives and learning it was the teachings from the mentors and speakers that helped her to realize what SHE wanted. After embracing the desire to dream for herself and no one else, she graduated a year early, changed her major to pursue her passion for film and is now a film student with plans to transfer after completing her associates degree to a film academy next year.
Each Disney Dreamers class gathers at WDW to network, learn and grow as they hear from Disney leadership and celebrity participants that have included stars from the big screen and television, noted sports figures, popular musicians as well as personalities and cast members from across the Disney family including “Good Morning America,’’ ESPN, Disney Channel and the TV series “black-ish” and “grown-ish.”
A few fun facts I learned when we attended is that, yes, the panel reads EVERY single essay, and due to the high volume of applications, students have a higher percentage rate of getting into Harvard than they do landing a spot at DDA.
New Initiatives in 2022
DDA continues to foster its attendees dreams through new career-building workshops, networking sessions, mentorship connections and introductions to future professional opportunities at The Walt Disney Company and beyond. For this milestone year, DDA, has partnered with ESPN’s The Undefeated and GRAMMY-nominated rap artist Cordae, to award college scholarships to 11 students from underrepresented communities attending Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
Since its inception in 2008, there have been more than 1,300 students participate in DDA, these graduates have gone on to pursue and exceed their dreams as doctors, nurses, pilots, journalists, musicians and more, with many that have transitioned as mentors to Disney Dreamers, including event speaker Princeton Parker (Class of 2011), who is now a Disney cast member! Princeton was so inspirational for not only the teens, but us as parents. In fact, all of the speakers gave us parents a lot of truth in how to be a solid support system for our Dreamers. They often joked that this wasn’t just for the kids, but for us parents, too. I left DDA with a fire to see my own dreams to fruition and be the best supporting role for my kids as they pursue their own journeys.
I hope that Disney continues to host this program, it has done wonders and had such a huge impact on these Dreamers, their families and their communities. I look forward to seeing the amazing things that the Class of 2022 will accomplish and always enjoy hearing the many stories of Dreamers being positive forces of change wherever their journeys take them.
My friend and Black Disney Moms colleague, Shaye Wyllie was able to cover the 2020 virtual event and you can read all about it on 4 Hats and Frugal. We hope to bring you all coverage of the 2022 events and keep you updated on all the magic!
About Disney Dreamers Academy:
Established by Walt Disney World in 2008, Disney Dreamers Academy’s mission is to inspire young leaders to dream beyond imagination by providing life-long access to personalized support for the Disney Dreamer, their caregivers and community through insightful content and uplifting experts, mentors and sponsors. Each year, 100 high school students are awarded a trip to Walt Disney World Resort in Florida to experience the immersive and transformational program.