The Crusader Newspaper Group

A Disney Dreamer from Virginia Beach is a beacon in his community

By Elaine Hegwood Bowen, M.S.J., Chicago Crusader

Marquis Thomas from Virginia Beach, Virginia, was such a beacon during the “Image Makeovers” workshop at the recent 2018 Disney Dreamers Academy (DDA) with Steve Harvey and Essence Magazine that I had to ask him about his journey to Walt Disney World.

Marquis is a sophomore honor-roll student at First Colonial High School Legal Studies Academy, and he will graduate in 2020. His goal after high school is to attend college and obtain a degree in criminal justice.

I first met Marquis after the workshop, and all the students were gathered in the same room to enjoy the fashion show and wrap up. The young women had just received a string of pearls, and the young men were busy tying ties or learning to tie them. As Marquis was assisting another student, I heard him mention the “Windsor tie,” and I was curious about his skills in looking dapper whenever he can.

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Marquis Thomas and his grandmother Dawn Boyer.

When asked if he wears a tie often, Marquis shared: “Yes, I often wear a tie. I wear a tie about twice a week to church and other events that may require it. My grandfather taught me how to tie a tie many years ago when I was about 7.” And, of course, this ensemble that he wears to church often throughout the week speaks to Marquis’ faith walk. He plays an active role in his hometown church—the Piney Grove Baptist Church where the pastor is D.L. Williams—serving on many groups. “I am the president of my youth choir, as well as the president of the Youth Pulpit Ambassadors at my church. I also sing in a quartet group with my grandfather.” Marquis says he is also a former Police Explorer with the City of Virginia Beach and a current member of the local Gospel group Bishop Elijah Smith and the Angels of God.

Marquis enjoyed the “Tied to Greatness” workshop, led by Dr. Alex Ellis, because, although he regularly dresses up, he learned a bit more. “I really enjoyed the image workshop with Dr. Ellis. Although I dress up many times in my typical week, there was still something he said about clothes that I didn’t know and that was: make sure you always wear a white undershirt under your dress shirt, because it will make your shirt look brighter.”

And if the old adage is true that clothes make a man, it was really brought home during the session. “I would say that clothes pay a big part in the attitude of a man, as well as how others may view that man. If you are dressed up, whether that be formal or semi-formal, others will look at you with dignity and respect,” Marquis said. “When you are dressed up like a man, your attitude should improve—not only does it make you look good, but it makes African-American men look great, as well, because it lets people know that all Black men aren’t up to no good.”

One major point that Marquis gained from DDA was that it’s OK to take risks. “Many people spoke to us Dreamers and told us about the risks that they took that got them to where they are today. For example, one young man said that although he was scared he went up to the head of Disney and asked him for an internship, which then turned into a job.” He added: “I am usually not one to take risks, because I have fears, but I have to remember—with great risks come great rewards.”

Overall Marquis had rave reviews about DDA. “The Disney Dreamers Academy was such a wonderful experience. It is a program that gives teenagers the opportunity to learn information that will help them achieve their dreams/goals in life,” he said. “I highly recommend this program to every single teenager, because you absolutely cannot go wrong.”

However, he admits that his essay wasn’t the only thing that was at work for him, as far as being chosen for DDA and that he had initial concerns about getting in. “I had such low confidence about getting into DDA, and I did not think that I would get in. But I know that I wouldn’t have been able to do it without my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” Marquis added: “My walk in faith is imperative, because I absolutely cannot do anything without him [God]. The Disney Dreamers Academy was such a wonderful learning experience, and all I can say is that when God has favor over your life, there is nothing that the world can do to stop what he has in store for you.”

For more information about Disney Dreamers Academy with Steve Harvey and Essence Magazine, and how you can help your high school student apply, visit





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