Whitney Young student Jordan Williams hits jackpot with DDA 2016

Disney Dreamers join (behind Mickey Mouse L-R) Mikki Taylor, editor-at-large for Essence Magazine, Michelle Ebanks, president of Essence Communications, Inc., radio and TV personality Steve Harvey, Tracey D. Powell, executive champion of Disney Dreamers Academy, and Mickey Mouse on March 6, 2016 to celebrate the commencement of the ninth Disney Dreamers Academy with Steve Harvey and Essence Magazine at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The annual event is a career-inspiration program for distinguished high school students from across the U.S. (Gregg Newton, photographer)

By Elaine Hegwood Bowen, MSJ, Chicago Crusader

Walt Disney World Resort concluded its ninth annual Disney Dreamers Academy (DDA) with Steve Harvey and ESSENCE Magazine, and a Whitney Young High School student found that persistence paid off, after she was selected upon her third try.

Jordan Williams was happy to be able to attend the Academy, which is a four-day, once-in-a-lifetime educational and mentoring program for a select group of high school students. The students – identified as “Dreamers”– are selected from thousands of applicants nationwide and are now among only 900 students to hold the honor. Mentors, along with Harvey, included Dr. Steve Perry, Princeton Parker, film producer Will Packer, actress Tamera Mowry-Housley and Bledsoe Technologies’ 17-year-old CEO, Jaylen Bledsoe.

“Applying taught me that persistence and consistency are key. I wanted to be a part of something great, something bigger than myself. I wanted to meet adults who were successful and could tell me how to be successful,” Jordan told the Crusader. “The people who usually tell me what to do and when to do it quite frankly are not as successful as I want to be. Why take the word of a sheep when you are a cub striving to be a lion? I needed to meet other cubs and lions, so I could see first hand what I would be like when I grew up.”

KNEELING SECOND FROM left, Jordan Williams, is photographed with her team members in front of display during Disney Dreamers Academy 2016.
KNEELING SECOND FROM left, Jordan Williams, is photographed with her team members in front of display during Disney Dreamers Academy 2016.

These are pretty profound sentiments from a 16-year-old, but Jordan knew what she needed, and the Academy provided a glimpse of what the aspiring physician can anticipate.

The program featured an exclusive weekend of dreaming big, discovering possibilities and preparing for the future. Along with a parent or guardian, each teen received an all-expense-paid trip to Walt Disney World Resort, where they learned important networking skills, participated in hands-on career workshops and created fun memories to cherish for a lifetime.

“I’m planning on going premed and majoring in sociology or psychology with a minor in public health at Syracuse, Stanford, or the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign,” Jordan added. She’s taking a sociology class at the University of Illinois at Chicago now and over the summer, she will take a three-week pre-collegiate sociology course at Stanford University. And if that’s not enough, next school year Jordan will take an Advanced Placement course in psychology. Then she hopes to rest a bit before going to medical school at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore.

One of Jordan’s workshops was the Deep Dive, where students experience real-life career models.

JORDAN WILLIAMS, LEFT, takes a fellow student’s blood pressure reading, as part of Williams’ Deep Dive experience.
JORDAN WILLIAMS, LEFT, takes a fellow student’s blood pressure reading, as part of Williams’ Deep Dive experience.

“During the Deep Dive, I experienced the world of pharmacy as well as the practice of medicine. In pharmacy, I learned how to fill a prescription, as well as information about diabetes and how to make Chapstick,” she said. “With the doctor, I learned how to take someone’s vitals, and how to use a sphygmomanometer (blood pressure cuff). Finally, because pig’s skin is similar to human skin, I learned how to sew up a cut on a pig’s foot.”

Jordan’s mother went with her to Disney World, and once things got rolling, she was just as excited for her daughter. “I didn’t know what to expect when Jordan was chosen to attend DDA. The Academy far exceeded anything I could have ever imagined,” Phaylecia Williams said. “From day one, we were off and running. The academy provided an experience not only for the students, but for the parents as well. The parent sessions were one of a kind, and Lisa Nichols reminded us that as parents we are so focused on supporting our dreamers that we forget to focus on ourselves. I would really like to thank Steve Harvey, Essence Magazine, and Walt Disney World for giving both my daughter and I this amazing experience.”

The students participated in a graduation ceremony on Sunday morning, which is so inspirational that many in the audience are often moved to tears. Jordan added: “The shining moment for me during graduation would have to be the ring exchange. It reminded me of a real high school graduation, but I completed DDA 2016 in only three days. I learned many social and economic skills, and the event was an amazingly, bittersweet moment.”

For high school students who want to apply for next year’s Disney Dreamers Academy, the Crusader will post the application period when it becomes available later this year. There is no “special” type of student that’s chosen. It all depends on the application essay. “They are not looking for whatever you think they are looking for,” Jordan said. “They are looking for your purest form of you. Tell your life like it is.”

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