The Crusader Newspaper Group

Disney Dreamers from Portage Indiana and Highland Park arrive in Orlando

High School Students Can Apply Now For 2020

By Elaine Hegwood Bowen, M.S.J.

For the 12th year, Walt Disney World Resort, along with Steve Harvey and ESSENCE Magazine, is hosting 100 students from across the country for the 2019 Disney Dreamers Academy. This year’s theme is “Be 100: Empowering Youth To Make Their Dreams Come True.”

This program is an important part of Disney’s commitment to helping the next generation of young people by inspiring them at a critical time in their development. DDA encourages teens to be positive, to be “all in” and to carry what they learn back with them, so they can relentlessly pursue their dreams and make a difference in the lives of others.

“These students are in for a life-changing experience,” said Tracey D. Powell, Walt Disney World Resort vice president and Disney Dreamers Academy executive champion. “Our goal is to help them see the unlimited possibilities and to inspire them to achieve their full purpose. To become the heroes of their own stories.”

Participating students, known as “Disney Dreamers,” embark on a journey that takes them throughout the Disney theme parks and behind the scenes of this 40-square-mile vacation destination. During the period March 21 through March 24, Walt Disney World becomes a vibrant classroom where students receive an all-expenses-paid trip to participate in an immersive, transformational four-day experience.

Additionally, students participate “deep dives” or career-oriented workshops that range from animation to zoology. Each student is also given important life tools such as effective communication techniques, leadership skills and networking strategies.

Students from the Chicago area are: Yvette (Yvie) Cabrera, who writes that she is a fun loving and adventurous 15-year-old from Portage, Indiana. She is currently halfway through her sophomore year at Andrean High School. She loves dancing, acting in theater programs at school, and spending time with family. Attending The University of Florida or the University of Southern California to study business and dance is her goal after high school. “My dream would be to follow in my father’s footsteps and open up my own business,” she says. “I would love to have my own dance school so that I can teach others how to express themselves through the art of dance and theater.”

Disney Dreamers
YVETTE CABRERA, 2019 Disney Dreamer from Portage Park, Indiana. (Photos: Disney Dreamers Academy) and ISABEL SCHWARTZ, 2019 Disney Dreamer from Highland Park, Illinois.

The other student that I am covering at DDA on behalf of the Crusader is Isabel Issy Schwartz, who is 15 years old and a sophomore in high school. She lives in the northern suburb of Highland Park, Illinois, and attends Highland Park High School. Issy writes: “I love working with children and I have volunteered at many preschools during my free time throughout the past few years.” She also participates in track and cross country at school; is a member of the Rotary Interact Club, which participates in community service projects throughout the year. Issy Is also involved with Girl Up and Educators of Tomorrow clubs. “When I grow up, I want to work with children,” she says.

Dreamers are also able to discover new career opportunities, pursue their dreams and interact with Harvey and other celebrities and motivational speakers. This year’s speakers include: Essence Magazine’s Mikki Taylor; DDA Alum and motivational speaker Princeton Parker; Chef Jeff Henderson; “Your Connection Coach” Jonathan Sprinkles; “Grown-ish” and “SuperFly” actor Trevor Jackson; “Black-ish” actor Marcus Scribner; and Educator Dr. Steve Perry, among others.

Marcus Scribner
Actors Marcus Scribner and Trevor Jackson, along with Walt Disney World Public Relations Manager Annette Gibbs.

At the press conference luncheon held on March 21, Jackson shared that he encourages the students to let them know that other young Black men have been in their shoes. “Things aren’t always as bad as they seem,” he said before his scheduled panel later in the week. He said that at one time he felt that he was alone and by himself.

Scribner, who takes the weight of Anthony Anderson’s insults on the hit ABC show “Black-ish,” talked of being anxious when he applied for college last year. “I panicked about the college admissions process, but I tell students that we have all been through it and it gets better.”

The CEO of Essence Communications Michelle Ebanks said: “Essence is honored to be here and to be a partner. It is our commitment, excellence and desire to inspire our young folks.”

Tracey Powell, V.P. Walt Disney Parks and Resorts and DDA Executive Champion, talked about a new “Parent Track” that helps coach parents to help their students realize their dreams once they leave DDA.

The Crusader has covered this event many times during the past few years, and the responses of the students and parents concerning the extensive valuable experiences that are offered are always overwhelmingly positive. At the end of the four days, students will receive their Disney Dreamers Academy class rings during what promises to be an emotional Sunday morning graduation ceremony, which will be held on March 24.

Since 2008, Walt Disney World Resort has provided all-expenses-paid trips to more than 1,100 students, plus a parent or guardian, to participate in the annual Disney Dreamers Academy. Students are selected from thousands of applicants who answered a series of essay questions about their personal stories and dreams for the future.

In an upcoming issue, I will write more about Yvie and Issy, as well as report on some of the outstanding workshops held during the 12th Disney Dreamers Academy with Steve Harvey and Essence Magazine.

And good news, first the time, the application process for the 2020 DDA is open earlier than usual. High School students age 13 through 19 can start applying for next year’s DIsney Dreamers Academy today. So don’t miss out.

For more information, visit Regular updates about Disney Dreamers Academy are also available on social media at, and

Elaine Hegwood Bowen, M.S.J., is the Entertainment Editor for the Chicago Crusader newspaper. She is also the author of “Old School Adventures from Englewood–South Side of Chicago.” For book info, [email protected]


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