The Crusader Newspaper Group

Disney Dreamers Academy students gaining valuable experience

By Elaine Hegwood Bowen, M.S.J.

Going into its second decade, the 2018 Disney Dreamers Academy got off to a great start on March 8 at Walt Disney World, as 100 students from across the country gathered at Walt Disney World to participate in what could be life-changing workshops and events sponsored for the 11th year by Walt Disney World, Steve Harvey and Essence Magazine.

At a press conference for media to kick off the event, Walt Disney World Public Relations Manager Annette Gibbs, said it was “hard to believe we are moving into the second decade.” She talked about the fabulous Kinsey Collection, which the Crusader reported on a few years back, which will be leaving Disney properties after a five-year traveling exhibit. The Kinsey Collection is a collection of African-American artwork, literature and other artifacts, which is owned by the couple Bernard and Shirley Kinsey, along with their son Khalil, whose school-aged curiosity about his family tree inspired his parents to build their collection.

(top-bottom, l-r) Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Steve Harvey, Tracey D. Powell, executive champion for Disney Dreamers Academy and Mikki Taylor, editor-at-large for Essence Magazine star in a special parade Thursday, March 8, at Magic Kingdom in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The parade signals the beginning of the 11th annual Disney Dreamers Academy with Steve Harvey and ESSENCE magazine. The event, taking place March 8-11, 2018 at Walt Disney World Resort, is a career-inspiration program for distinguished high school students from across the U.S. (Todd Anderson, photographer)

Gibbs mentioned that “Good Morning America” recently featured those associated with DDA on its morning broadcast.

Tracey D. Powell, Vice President of Commercial Management Resorts for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, was excited to see familiar and new faces at the media briefing. “It has been a phenomenal first ten years,” she said. “The 10th year was absolutely great.” When referring to the new branding for DDA that includes the “#Be100” hashtag, Powell said: “We wanted to really touch the students in a meaningful way. The message for the Dreamers is: be who they are; be honest; be authentic in their unique journey.” She added that parents and guardians should also consider what the new messaging means to them, as they encourage their Dreamers.

Michele Ebanks, President of Essence Communications, thanked Powell for representing DDA with such “grace and passion.” She added that Essence represents the “triumph of everyday women.”

Later in the day after a festive parade at the Magic Kingdom Park, Dreamers and parents were welcomed at an official ceremony. Hundreds of people filed into the World Showplace, Epcot, to hear from DDA alumni and committee members who extolled the benefits of being a Dreamer.  Motivational speaker Princeton Parker, who is a 2011 alum, asked Dreamers: “Who will you be? The Academy will help educate and empower you to answer: You can be fearless and great.” He encouraged Dreamers to not just exist—as you do by just breathing—but to make a choice to #Be100.

Powell commented: “#Be100 isn’t just a logo, it’s our commitment to dream even bigger. A promise to give your all. A battle cry to all of us to be visionaries, be risk takers, all in the pursuit of following our dreams.”

George Kalogridis, President of Walt Disney World, said that Disney World was a place “designed to make people happy on the power of dreams. Before there is a happily ever after, there has to be a once upon a time. Dreamers, this is your once upon a time.”

Mikki Taylor, of Essence Magazine, encouraged the Dreamers: “You don’t want to let anyone talk you out of your dreams.”

Gospel great Yolanda Adams, who is on one of the DDA committees, said: “This is a weekend that I treasure. Just know that it’s your destiny to be here.”

At DDA, while it’s the students who are the main point of the weekend, the man of the hour Steve Harvey took to the stage to speak frankly with the students. “I understand the importance of the dream. It’s really a cool program, and all of your haters wanted to be here.”  He spoke about society’s dependence on Google. “Google makes you instantly think you are brilliant, but Google will fool you.”  But you can’t Google everything. “You can’t Google experience, success and exposure.” He said that Dreamers needed a good work ethic and faith. Finally he brought it on home: “Nobody does it better than Disney.”

The Crusader will feature more articles from the 2018 Disney Dreamers Academy next week, including those profiling the Chicago area Dreamers, who include Mariah Barnett from Aurora; Tabitha Willis from Country Club Hills; Tamela Trimuel from Harvey and Jayvion Rice from Riverdale. The event runs until March 11 at Walt Disney World. For more information about Disney Dreamers Academy, visit



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