The Crusader Newspaper Group

Local Disney Dreamers Academy students share their wealth of knowledge

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

I had the privilege of covering the four Chicago-area high school students on behalf of the Crusader during the recent 2018 Disney Dreamers Academy with Steve Harvey and Essence Magazine. One of the students was Mariah Barnett who attends West Aurora High School and wants to become a neurosurgeon. She participated in many of the workshops that DDA had to offer, including the Medicine Deep Dive, where students learned to suture under the guidance of a Walt Disney World Nurse Practitioner and others. Mariah had to handle stitching up a pig’s hoof, and she enjoyed it. “My experience at Disney Dreamers Academy was one that will never compare to any other experience that I will have in my life, “Mariah said. “I learned so much about myself and what I want to do in the future; my medicine deep dive only confirmed my wanting to go into surgery.”

During a quick interview while at DDA, Mariah shared with me that when she put on all the surgical scrubs, she just knew that medicine is the field she wants to enter. She also added: “The most important part of my weekend would be a tie between motivational speaker Jonathan Sprinkles’ speech and the surgical part of my deep dive, because they both affected me the same way. The workshops gave me advice on how to better my perspective on life and how I should go about choosing my future career.”

When asked about encouraging students to apply for the 2019 Disney Dreamers Academy, Mariah said: “Why not. There’s no harm in applying, and the application questions aren’t that hard compared to regular college applications.”

Tamera Trimuel from Harvey also had a productive time during the weekend, March 8 through March 11. Tamera attended the Engineering Deep Dive and said that it opened her eyes to the real world of engineering. “I didn’t know there were that many types of engineering, such as Industrial Engineering, Safety Engineering, etc. I really enjoyed working with my team, who I miss very much.”

The 9th grader from Marian Catholic High School added that DDA changed her life. “Going into it, I didn’t really expect for it to be that impactful, but boy was I wrong! I met so many like-minded people who inspired me even more. I came back to Chicago with an eager hunger for success! I am now in the process of starting my own inspirational YouTube channel for young ladies and writing my own book.”

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TAMERA TRIMUEL AND her parents Marlene and Terrence Trimuel.

Tamera also found inspiration from media mogul Steve Harvey. “When Steve Harvey spoke to us about our imagination, he used the scripture Hebrews 11:1: Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. He told us that when you share your dream with someone else, sometimes they won’t agree. They won’t agree because they haven’t seen it, because God didn’t place your dream in their imagination. Your imagination is faith! Your imagination is the evidence of future attractions to come! Your imagination needs to be guarded!” That was the most important thing to me, because it really spoke to me. It told me that when I imagine things, that is God’s way of communicating his plan for my life! With Steve’s speech, I will keep imagining! I will have the faith and the belief that what God is showing me, it will come true!”

And in keeping with the #Be100 theme for Disney Dreamers Academy, Tamera said that the workshops taught her to say, “I am, instead of saying what I want to be. I have always had confidence in myself, and the things I’ve done, but when it came to new challenges I’ve doubted myself. I would always say that I want to be this, or I want to be that. But I would never say I am this or I am that. ‘The Essence of You’ workshop helped me with this area of my life. It helped me to realize that I need to start speaking things into existence!”

Finally, Tamera said that the weekend taught her to stop being fearful. “DDA taught me to stop being afraid, and just do it! With that wisdom, I am going to step out on faith and just start.”

For those future DDA participants, Tamera had these encouraging words: “DDA has the most rewarding and inspirational rejuvenation you can possibly get. It will open your eyes to endless possibilities and inspire you to go chase your dreams—whether you are afraid or not. Disney Dreamer’s Academy will change your life forever.”

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JAYVION RICE and his mother.

Jayvion Rice, who attends De La Salle Institute, was another local student who participated in the Entrepreneur Deep Dive. He said: “It was amazing to meet people who shared the same interest as me. But the best part was hearing from Mrs. Sonia Jackson Myles of The Sisters Accord, and the creators of Mortar Cincinnati—Derrick Braziel and William Tho- mas II —who just happen to be DDA alums.”

Jayvion, who wants to be an entrepreneur and assist others in community development, said that he really enjoyed himself at DDA. “It was awesome to hear the speakers’ encouraging words and to be around students that share a common interest.”

The most important part of the weekend, Jayvion said, was the “Man Cave,” because “It taught me that as a man it is okay to show emotions.”  The young man also learned that it is OK to have an interest in a certain field and not know what you want to do. More importantly, it is OK to try and try again, without feeling shame. “I learned that it is okay to fail, as long as you learn from your failures,” he said.

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MARIAH BARNETT CHECKS on her prescriptions during the Medicine Deep Dive

The last student that participated in DDA from the Chicago local area was Tabitha Willis, who lives in County Club Hills and also attends Marian Catholic High School in Chicago Heights. Tabitha says that she also learned much from the Medicine Deep Dive. “It was an insightful experience getting to know more about the medical field. I never knew that Disney had its own hospital where it treats its cast members. It was awesome to learn that maybe one day I could work at Disney by treating the cast members. I enjoyed learning to suture and make a prescription. It made me even more excited for my future.” She added: “It made me realize how wide-reaching the medical field is. We got to look into the surgical side and pharmaceutical side of medicine. I really enjoyed being able to talk with so many professionals in various medical careers.”

She had kudos for the distinguished speakers that the Academy had assembled. “It’s hard to put my experience at Disney Dreamers Academy into words. The Disney experience in itself is amazing, and to have a prestigious panel of successful individuals tell you that your dream is worth celebrating is inspiring. It was an honor that they saw great potential in us and wanted to give us a jump start to make our dreams come true,” Tabitha said. “The experience was so powerful that I cried, laughed, loved and made lasting memories that I will never forget.  This experience was magnificent; it was something you had to experience to really understand the gravity of what took place.

My experience at DDA completely changed my life and outlook. It was more than I ever expected. Every day was a new adventure, better than the last and I can genuinely say I left the Academy with my life changed forever.” Tabitha also found meaning in the “Women Empowerment” workshop. “The workshop confirmed to me that I was on the right path to following my purpose in life. My purpose is not just for me. God has a purpose for all of us, and the most important thing you can do is find out what that purpose is.”

Overall, Tabitha admitted that she emerged from DDA a different person. “I learned to not let my fears scream and my dreams whisper. So many times, in life I allowed my fear of failure to hold me back instead of allowing my dreams to keep me moving forward. I now know that failure is not losing. The only way one loses is if they don’t try at all.” And with this advice, Tabitha knows that she can do more than one thing. “The Academy also taught us that life does not have to be ‘or’ but instead can be filled with ‘ands.’ We don’t have to limit ourselves to one goal and career interest but instead should reach to fulfill any passion we have.”

I would like to thank my Walt Disney World host Stephanie Davidson, who not only made sure that I was on point for all my assignments while at Walt Disney World but who also smoothed out any wrinkles.

For more information about applying for the 2019 Disney Dreamers Academy with Steve Harvey and Essence Magazine, please visit

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