The Crusader Newspaper Group

Two Chicago-area students among 100 chosen for 2019 DDA

By Elaine Hegwood Bowen, M.S.J.

Walt Disney World Resort recently revealed the 100 extraordinary youth from across the nation who will participate in the 2019 Disney Dreamers Academy (DDA) with Steve Harvey and ESSENCE Magazine. Each student receives an all-expenses-paid trip to Walt Disney World to participate in an immersive, transformational four-day experience that will take place  March 21-24.

During past years, there have been a number of students who lived in Chicago or the South suburbs who have taken part in this great opportunity. The Chicago Crusader publishes notices for high schoolers to apply, and for 2019 Isabel Schwartz from the northern suburb of Highland Park and Yvette Cabrera from Portage, Indiana, have been selected.

The program, now in its 12th year, 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. 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.

“These students are in for a life-changing experience,” said Tracey D. Powell, Walt Disney World Resort vice president and DDA 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. Walt Disney World becomes a vibrant classroom where students discover new career opportunities, pursue their dreams and interact with Harvey and other celebrities and motivational speakers. Celebrities who have participated in the past include singers Patti LaBelle and Ne-Yo, NBA legend and business mogul Magic Johnson, Gospel music star Yolanda Adams, actor Jussie Smollett, plus TV personalities such as celebrity chef Carla Hall and “Good Morning America’’ co-anchor Michael Strahan.

Additionally, students participate in immersive 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.

Earlier this year, the 2018 Disney Dreamers were treated to a celebrity panel that included Ruth Carter, the renowned costume designer for “Black Panther” and dozens of other films during the past 30 years, and the twins from ABC’s “Blackish,” Miles Brown and Marsai Martin.

ABC’s Black-ish stars Miles Brown and Marsai Martin share inspiring stories with high school students Saturday, March 10, 2018, during a panel discussion of Disney Dreamers Academy with Steve Harvey and ESSENCE at Epcot in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The 11th annual Disney Dreamers Academy, taking place March 8-11, 2018 is a career-inspiration program for distinguished high school students from across the U.S. (Todd Anderson, photographer)

“Having a dream is one of the most important things in life. My success is a direct result of dreaming big,” said Harvey. “It is my passion to help others dream bigger and to give them the tools to achieve those dreams. That is why I enjoy partnering with Disney on this program every year.”

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.

“We have a remarkable group of students attending this year,” said Michelle Ebanks, Chief Executive Officer of Essence Communications, Inc. “At ESSENCE, we embrace the mission of inspiring the next generation of leaders, and we’re looking forward to partnering with Disney once again to cultivate greatness in the 2019 class.”

The Chicago 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 receive their Disney Dreamers Academy class rings during an emotional Sunday morning graduation ceremony.

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EMAIL MESSAGE SENT to Chicago Crusader Entertainment Editor from Tamera Trimuel, a 2018 Disney Dreamer, about her experiences at DDA 2018.


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

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