The Crusader Newspaper Group

Local Disney Dreamers gain great inspiration at Walt Disney World

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, hosted 100 students from across the country for the 2019 Disney Dreamers Academy. This year’s theme was “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, at the start of the conference. “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,” embarked 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 became a vibrant classroom where students received an all-expenses-paid trip to participate in an immersive, transformational four-day experience.

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

Students from the Chicago area were: Yvette (Yvie) Cabrera, who writes that she is a fun loving and adventurous 15-year-old from Crown Point, Indiana. She is currently half-way 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.”

The other student that I covered at DDA on behalf of the Crusader was 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 were also able to discover new career opportunities, pursue their dreams and interact with Harvey and other celebrities and motivational speakers. This year’s speakers included: 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.

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 that was held later. 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 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 received their DDA class rings during a formal commencement ceremony, where award-winning Gospel artist Yolanda Adams performed.

For the first 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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