They’re Going to Disney World!

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Keke Palmer (right) of ABC’s “Good Morning America” visits Myah Mitchell (left) at her school in Queen, N.Y., Jan. 16, 2020, to surprise her live on air with the news Mitchell will be part of the 2020 class for Disney Dreamers Academy at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Walt Disney Television/Lorenzo Bevilaqua)

By Elaine Hegwood Bowen, MSJ

Five Chicago-area students are among the outstanding group of 100 teens selected for the 2020 Disney Dreamers Academy, an all-expenses-paid mentoring experience of a lifetime Walt Disney World Resort revealed the 100 extraordinary high school students from across the nation who will participate in the 2020 Disney Dreamers Academy with Steve Harvey and ESSENCE Magazine. Each student receives an all-expenses-paid trip to Walt Disney World to participate in the immersive, transformational four-day experience that will take place March 12-15.

Among the selected students, five are from the Chicago area. They are: Jeremiah Lewis, Jaden Maloney, Kennedy Crye, from Joliet, Mary Catherine Hanafeelaplante from Mount Prospect, and Ariyana Irving from Gary, Indiana.

Mary Catherine Hanafeelaplante
Kennedy Crye
Jeremiah Lewis
Jaden Maloney
Ariyana Irving

To celebrate the students’ selection, ABC’s Good Morning America surprised one member of the new 2020 class, Myah Mitchell of Cambria Heights, New York, by showing up at her school to tell her the news. The full list of students is available at www.DisneyDreamersAcademy.com.

The program, now in its 13th year, is a part of Walt Disney World’s commitment to helping the next generation of young people by inspiring them at a critical time in their development. The Disney Dreamers Academy theme is “Be100,” encouraging 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.

“After 12 successful years, we know the profound impact this program has on these students,” said Tracey D. Powell, Walt Disney World Resort vice president and Disney Dreamers Academy executive champion. “One dream can change the world, and through Disney Dreamers Academy we hope to help these amazing teens turn their dreams into reality.”

Participating students, known as “Disney Dreamers,” embark on a journey throughout the Walt Disney World theme parks and behind the scenes of this 40-square-mile vacation destination. It’s a vibrant classroom where students discover new career opportunities, pursue their dreams, and interact with Harvey and other celebrities and motivational speakers. Past celebrity participants have included singer NE-YO, NBA legend and business mogul Magic Johnson, the star of the Disney’s upcoming live-action “Little Mermaid” Halle Bailey, gospel music star Yolanda Adams, and personalities and cast members from across the Disney corporate family including “Good Morning America’’, ESPN, Disney Channel, the TV series Black-ish and grow-ish.

Students participate in immersive career-oriented workshops that explore a wide range of career disciplines found at Walt Disney World, learning life tools such as effective communication techniques, leadership skills and networking strategies.

“I know from personal experience that big dreams lead to big success,” said Harvey. “Disney understands that concept better than any other company, and that is why I partner with them every year on this program to encourage big dreams for the next generation.”

Since 2008, Walt Disney World Resort has provided all-expenses-paid trips to more than 1,200 students, plus a parent or guardian, to participate in the annual Disney Dreamers Academy. Students are selected from thousands of applicants who answered essay questions about their personal stories and dreams for the future.

“Meeting the 100 impressive students selected for Disney Dreamers Academy each year is a personal highlight for me,” said Michelle Ebanks, Chief Executive Officer of Essence Communications, Inc. “I am continually amazed by their ambition, talent and perseverance. Partnering with Disney on this program is an opportunity to carry out our ongoing mission to inspire, inform and empower.”

For more information, visit DisneyDreamersAcademy.com. Regular updates about Disney Dreamers Academy are also available on social media at Facebook.com/DisneyDreamersAcademy, Twitter.com/DreamersAcademy and Instagram.com/disneydreamersacademy.

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