The Crusader Newspaper Group

Calling all Chicago area students for the 2020 DDA

By Elaine Hegwood Bowen, MSJ

The application period for the 2020 Disney Dreamers Academy (DDA), sponsored by Walt Disney World Resort (WDW), along with Steve Harvey and ESSENCE Magazine, is in full swing. This is my last piece covering the 2019 DDA, and I want to share the story of another teen who was part of that class. WDW hosted 100 students from across the nation with an all-expenses-paid, four-day trip to participate in an immersive, transformational, four-day experience aimed at helping them tap into their potential.

The Crusader hopes that people who are reading this story will tell friends and family members around the area to apply, because there were no Chicago participants at this year’s event. Now that could mean that either no Chicago students applied or that there were applicants but no local students were chosen. We must remedy this and make sure that area youth are able to take advantage of this great opportunity that has been held at the Walt Disney World Resort every year for the past 12 years.

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TONYA CLINTON, Ed.S., and her daughter, Makaya an aspiring dentist, share an emotional moment during the 2019 DDA Graduation Ceremony.

I am highlighting Makaya Clinton, a 18-year-old student from the Atlanta area who I met and who wants to become a dentist. Makaya was excited to be chosen for the 2019 class. “My experience at Disney Dreamers Academy was such an unforgettable experience. The people I met, the amazing speakers I heard, and being able to explore my future career, were everything I needed to inspire me to really chase my dreams! It felt so good to be around like-minded people who share common interests as mine, especially helping others. I’m so proud to be one  of the 100.”

She shares with prospective participants the importance of this event. “I applied to DDA because I wanted to learn how to put my dreams into action. With DDA, I have seen so many people grow and accomplish their dreams and I wanted to experience that firsthand.”

The celebrity panels were so beneficial for the students, as they learned from some artists with whom they could relate. “The most important part of the weekend was the ESSENCE ‘If You’ session. In this session, we got inspired by Chloe & Halle who were so down to earth. They told us to never stop and to chase our dreams,” Makaya said.

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MAKAYA CLINTON AND her mom, Tonya Clinton, Ed.S., pose for a photo during the 2019 Disney Dreamers Academy.

DDA seems to run in the family, because Makaya accompanied her brother in 2017 when he was part of that year’s class. Their mother, who is an educator, really appreciates these opportunities that her children have been awarded, but she knows that Makaya’s destiny is in her own hands. “In the midst of cultivating a dreamer to not forget to dream, I have mentioned to Makaya and the rest of my children over and over that God created them with a purpose, and they have an assignment/destiny here on earth. This experience has equipped me with the tools to help me cultivate my daughter’s dreams; meaning that I will make sure that her perspective is positive and that she follows through until each and every one of her dreams are fulfilled,” said Tonya Clinton, Ed.S. “I am truly grateful for the parent sessions that helped me understand how important it is to develop a lifestyle of dreaming.”

Makaya is keeping on her toes while in high school, as well. “One of the most rewarding activities I’ve participated in during high school is my Allied Healthcare class. Since I want to become a dentist, it truly gives me insight on how working in the medical field will be,” she said. “As part of my class, I obtain clinical hours at Piedmont Henry Hospital and a clinical site of my choice. This class has really set me up for the next stepping stone in my life.”

If this seems overwhelming, it is not. DDA 2020 promises to be all that the 2019 session was and more. Parents and students alike mentioned that they didn’t know what to expect but were very impressed once they arrived at DDA 2019.

Makaya sends encouragement to students who may still be on the fence about applying. “Just GO for it! Anything that you dream is obtainable, and this program truly teaches you that and so much more. Being a part of the “100” is an indescribable yet good feeling and it’s such a great opportunity.”

I would like to thank Walt Disney World Resort, Steve Harvey and ESSENCE Magazine for always giving the Crusader an opportunity to be on hand and to share the experiences of the weekend with our readers. I would also like to thank my 2019 DDA chaperone Courtney Guth. For high school students who are between 13 and 19 years old, to apply, visit

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